Call for papers for a special issue of Innovation: Organization and Management:

Pushing the boundaries of open and user innovation

Guest Editors

Oliver Alexy

Lars Frederiksen

Katja Hutter


Open and user innovation activities, such as crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, alliance building, selective revealing, and internal and external corporate venturing are used increasingly by incumbent firms and start-ups. Thus, both top managers (e.g. CEOs, CIO, COOs, CTOs, etc.) and innovation professionals are debating how their organizations should best interact with its external environment. These developments take place in parallel to the breathtaking speed of technological advancement and the concomitant need to understand and deploy digital technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence in the context of open and user innovation activities. Finally, these technologies may hold the key for entirely new forms of organizing to which user and open innovation are crucial, such as innovation ecosystems, or forms of user-led and user-centered organizing, which may potentially function even without the involvement of firms.

In parallel with this development, the academic literature on open and user innovation has grown significantly – 2018 will mark the 30th anniversary of Eric von Hippel’s book “The Sources of Innovation”. Yet, beyond isolated efforts at consolidating the field (e.g., Bogers & West, 2014; Bogers et al., 2017), we still struggle to clearly identify the core tenets, and in particular, the boundary conditions of open and user innovation. These two elements, however, are crucial for user and open innovation to make the “next step” – to move from a challenger of an existing paradigm to a theoretical approach in its own right. In short – when, where, how and why do user and open innovation ‘apply,’ and, in particular apply more or better than potentially related concepts from innovation studies and adjacent fields, including strategy, entrepreneurship, psychology, organization theory, sociology, or marketing, among others?

Consequently, we argue that while we have a good notion of the limitations of current theorizing on open and user innovation as well as ideas for further research, we need to develop and test both new and established theories. To facilitate this effort, we seek papers that generate new insights into questions including: why internally and externally located individuals voluntarily transfer and generate new knowledge; when, why, and how users interact to develop innovation; how companies can enhance this proactive behavior through network creation, rewards and leadership; how the quality of externally sourced knowledge can be improved before and during the transfer process; how internal and external management and search activities can be coordinated and integrated; the conditions under which users and firms should and should not engage in open or user innovation.

Examples of paper topics

We hope to spur contributions by offering a few questions or topics below that may be covered in this special issue. These are of course not exhaustive:

  • How do user communities co-evolve over time with innovations by users?
  • Do professionals and hobbyists develop and submit quantitatively and qualitatively different types of user innovations? Why?
  • How does external activity into an established company interact with individual’s perception of the brand and status of the company?
  • What is the role of open and user innovation in the sharing economy?
  • How can breakthrough ideas from either within an organization or originating from outside be identified and protected through a dedicated management program?
  • What can be done to create a less risky environment for external knowledge generation and selection where early and informal feedback is possible?
  • How may organizations combine an internal R&D program with an external approach, such as a crowdsourcing platform?
  • What is the role of platforms in generating user entrepreneurship?
  • How can crowdfunding generate user innovation?
  • How and why should established firms get involved in crowdfunding activities?
  • In which settings are the existence of IP rights, such as patents or copyrights, beneficial when trying to identify and attain new knowledge, and when are they a hindrance for knowledge acquisition or even commercialization?
  • How can external search for knowledge by firms be successfully implemented and supported by a particular organizational design?
  • Which factors may enable to emergence of user-created and user-led ecosystems and industries?
  • Which conditions are prone to lead to the failure of user or open innovation initiatives?
  • How may innovation engagement by users evolve into user activism?

We give special attention to papers involving an empirical contribution, but welcome submissions of varying kinds, including theoretical or methodological work. Empirical papers should employ strong methods and display interesting data either on the level of the individual, project/teams, firms, communities, or even industry. We also welcome replications of key studies in the area of open and user innovation. Papers should be sufficiently detailed to make meaningful empirical as well as theoretical contributions, enabled, for example, through in-depth longitudinal research, experiments, or the employment of larger comparative studies.

The special issue is interdisciplinary. The topic of open and user innovation is central in the area of innovation management, but the perspectives applied in the papers can origin from the psychology (e.g. motivation, creativity), social network, entrepreneurship, strategy, or learning literature, or the literature on innovation process management, intellectual property rights or innovation or portfolio management – and finally the scholarship focused on external search, leadership and organizational design.

Deadlines and submission instructions

Prior to the submission deadline of this special issue, potential authors may gather informal feedback at various conferences that members of the editorial team will attend. We would like to emphasize that neither submission to nor presentation at those conferences is necessary nor sufficient for submission to the special issue: DRUID Conference, June 12-14, New York; Open and User Innovation Workshop, Innsbruck, Austria, July, 10-12, 2017; Academy of Management Conference, August 4-8, 2017.

November 15th 2017: First complete manuscript should be submitted to Innovation: Organization and Management.

30th January 2018: Report from editors sent to authors.

April 2018: Second version of the paper; for those papers requiring a second revision.

We aim to accept the final version of the paper by July 2018.

The final papers should not exceed 12,000 words (including references). Manuscripts have to comply with the authors’ guidelines of IOM:

Guest editor details:

Oliver Alexy is a member of the Department for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the TUM School of Management, Technical University of Munich, Germany. Oliver studies how organizations can organize effectively under conditions of high uncertainty, for example by embracing user and open innovation.

Lars Frederiksen works at Department of Management, Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, Denmark where he serves as head of talent and research. Lars specializes in the management of innovation and technology with particular emphasis on community-based strategies, distributed and user innovation, project-based organizations, and entrepreneurship.

Katja Hutter heads the Marketing and Innovation area at the University of Salzburg, Austria. Katja’s work focuses on how firms can use new approaches to improve how they are interacting with their customers to develop innovation. In particular, she is looking at topics such as crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, customer-centered innovation, and roles and interaction patterns in online communities.


West, J. & Bogers, M. 2014. Leveraging external sources of innovation: A review of research on open innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 31(4): 814-831.

Bogers, M., Zobel, A.-K., Afuah, A., Almirall, E., Brunswicker, S., Dahlander, L., Frederiksen, L., Gawer, A., Gruber, M., Haefliger, S., Hagedoorn, J., Hilgers, D., Laursen, K., Magnusson, M. G., Majchrzak, A., McCarthy, I. P., Moeslein, K. M., Nambisan, S., Piller, F. T., Radziwon, A., Rossi-Lamastra, C., Sims, J., & Ter Wal, A. L. J. 2017. The open innovation research landscape: Established perspectives and emerging themes across different levels of analysis. Industry and Innovation, 24(1): 8-40.