Innovation development in the scope of new products, services and busi-ness models (Garcia & Calantone 2002) became an exigent issue for research and practice over the last years. Learning to generate, refine, and develop ideas in an open or semi-open manner towards commercially valuable innovations becomes more and more crucial for companies to succeed in their markets (McGrath 2001).
Originally, the related innovation activities were located in a research and development (R&D) department, where dedicated specialists developed solu-tions in a more or less closed environment (Chandler 1990). Trying to raise flexibility and to leverage external know-how, companies increasingly opened their innovation management in recent times to integrate external partners and customers into their innovation networks and value creation (Chesbrough 2003, von Hippel 2005, Reichwald & Piller 2006). The open source software industry stands for a very popular and successful example of implementing the open innovation (OI) paradigm, in the sense of distributed co-development (West & Gallagher 2006).
Nevertheless, one important group of potential innovators has been quite neglected in research and practice so far, namely the employees of c company. Those, at present, only have the possibility to submit an idea to a physical or virtual mailbox. There hardly is any further interaction with the idea initiator or other contributors. In our approach, we seek to integrate all employees of a company into an open innovation network, which we refer to as internal open innovation management. An adequate information technology (IT) support system most likely allows for productivity growth (Bartel et al. 2007). So far, substantial knowledge and a considerable number of IT systems for traditional innovation management arose from both research and practice (Cooper & Kleinschmidt 1990, Ardilio et al. 2004). Additionally, user-centred and cooperation-oriented social software concepts and applications – like social networks and wikis (O’Reilly 2005, Ma & Agarwal 2007) – are promising for fostering open innovation. However, none of the existing web-platforms targeted towards OI explicitly addresses the unique challenges and potentials of internal open innovation.
To fill this gap of knowledge the paper addresses the following research question: “How can company internal open innovation be effectively supported with IT using social networking concepts and applications?” Building on, adapting and extending key results from the stream of prior research, we employed a design science approach. This allowed us to develop a productively used prototype of a social network based open innovation platform for internal OI. We proceeded in iterative loops to reduce aberrations and ensure the matching of our solution with the given problem.
Describing this research, the paper is structured as follows: the next sec-tion positions our research against prior literature. We then describe our research methodology. Finally, we present our results – a validated concept and a prototypical implementation. We conclude by discussing the paper’s findings and implications.