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Open Innovation & Design Thinking: Tracing the Journey from Ideation to Collective Innovation

Open innovation stands as a transformative force in the contemporary business arena, offering avenues for enhanced collaboration and innovative strategic renewal. This multi-year research program delves deep into the open innovation paradigm, tracing the intricate journey from individual cognitive processes to the collective realization of innovative outcomes. Focusing on open innovation in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), especially within innovation communities, the program offers insights into the activation, management, and optimization of open innovation practices. The program unfolds through four main strands:

1.      Foundations of Design Thinking and Ideation

We delineate on a conceptual basis the fundamental differences between classical management thinking and the core of design thinking – in order to show in which context each of both approaches performs best. We also explore some in-depth hypotheses as to individual-level ideation in order to facilitate creative outcomes in open innovation initiatives.

2.      Identification with Ideas in Open Innovation

This strand unravels the how individuals can form an attachment to their creative ideas, shedding light on the cognitive identification with innovative ideas and the factors determining their realization. On a conceptual basis we draw on earlier work which introduces the concept of identification with ideas and differentiates it from the hitherto accepted notion of psychological ownership.

3.      Identification with the Organization in Open Innovation

We aim for an in-depth analysis of how individual identification with organizations influences creative contributions, bridging personal cognition with organizational objectives, especially in open innovation settings.

4.      Developing Communities for Open and User-centric Innovation

This final strand brings together CEI and research insights to offer a comprehensive look how open innovation communities of SMES can be best set up for adopting open innovation and user-centric methods (i.e. Design Thinking and others). We draw on unique, in-depth data from the "Innovation Booster" communities in Switzerland. This segment aims at developing best practices how to support the adoption of design thinking and user-centric approaches with the goal to enhance innovation capacity and achieve more radical innovation.

By weaving these strands together, this research program offers a holistic view of open innovation and user-centric methods, from its cognitive underpinnings in ideation to its tangible impact. It aims to equip organizations, innovators, and policymakers with strategies and insights to harness the full potential of open innovation communities.

Ongoing Impact

Selected, related publications in progress:

  • Bubenzer, P. (2023). Identification with Opportunities: Exploring Mechanisms of Personal Attachments to Opportunity Ideas.
  • Bubenzer, P. (2023). Innovation Communities of Swiss SMEs: Activation and Management for More Open Innovation.
  • Bubenzer, P. (2022). Exploring Design Thinking Practices in Swiss Innovation Communities. ISPIM Conference, Athens, Greece
  • Bubenzer, P. (2018). Identification, Effort and Ideation Outcomes: Rethinking Outsiders in Open Innovation Initiatives.
  • Bubenzer, P. (2016). Managing Creativity for Strategic Renewal: The Path to the Best Idea.
  • Bubenzer, P., Rouse E., Grégoire D.A. (2015) Your Idea Is Also Mine (Now)! Psychological Ownership and Identification with Ideas in Organizations

Our paper on identification with opportunities was selected as a best paper at the leading entrepreneurship conference of Babson College in 2023.

Beyond our publications, CEI insights have been put to work for developing the nationwide Innovation Booster program of Innosuisse, the national Swiss Innovation Agency. The Innovation Booster programs aims at developing open innovation and design thinking capacities across Switzerland. To date, already over 5'000 organizations have profited from this program.

Durée du projet

2020 à ----

Responsable de projet

Philipp Bubenzer

Professeur HES ordinaire/Responsable d'institut

+41 26 429 63 65

Institut/Centre de compétence

Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Partenaires et sponsors

Innosuisse, Switzerland /EASME, European Commission