Bite-size Case Study

Open innovation: NASA

Published on September 29, 2021 Originally recorded 2021   3 min
Bill Joy has a great expression that encapsulates the essence of open innovation. He said, "Not all the smart people work for you." You still need smart people in an open innovation system, but now your smart people have the task to identify, and connect to, the other smart people in the world that don't work for you.
This has many implications, for you, for companies, for innovation. What are the biggest innovations in your markets, going back over the last decade? Where did those innovations come from? They can come from a variety of sources in an open innovation world. Are you positioned with these sources, to be ready for innovation over the coming decade?
One fascinating example of open innovation and practice comes from NASA - the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - in the US. They adopted an open innovation program, to tackle some of their most difficult challenges that they were having a hard time solving internally. With this open innovation call, they received many submissions from people all over the world, to tackle some of their hardest problems. This research comes from Hila Lifshitz-Assaf, currently a professor at NYU. One of the results they received was in the prediction of solar flares. There was an algorithm proposed that greatly improved the accuracy of the prediction, and lengthened the time interval to be able to detect a possible solar flare, which would give more time to take preventive action. This winning response came, not from a space scientist, not from an aeronautical engineer, but instead from somebody who was a radio engineer, here on Earth.