Impact Innovation – Open Innovation, Product Lifecycle Analysis: The Bigger Picture. pt2/3

In Pt 1, we gave an introduction to Impact Innovation and how it can be the bridge between local action and global impact. On this page, we look at some of the frameworks and methodologies that are in-between that can help to understand that grey area of collaborative innovation. It helps to “zoom out” and look at “intermediary levels” between Design Thinking and Theory of Change. In that range we can identify well-established frameworks, namely “Open Innovation” and “Product Lifecycle Analysis”. Strictly speaking, these frameworks are from different worlds and you might think that they are not possible to compare, let alone put on a scale. We are not trying to be exact here, rather to build approximations to make sense of the world around us, and acquire new tools to take action.

Inspired by “Open Innovation in a Start-up Firm” Lura Rexhepi MahmutajBesnik Krasniqi, Springer, 2019.
For those of you who are intimate with affecting change in the world, you are certainly aware that great ideas are worthless without sustained courageous execution. Impact Invention shares many similarities with Open Innovation.  In 2006 by Prof Henry Chesbrough explained “Open innovation is the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively. [This paradigm] assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as they look to advance their technology.” From “Researching a New Paradigm”, 2006. The method can be extracted from the corporate context and adapted to work in communities, with “Commons ethos”, in communities that share. Such ethos are well and alive in Science, Open Source Software, Open Hardware, and many social and environmental justice communities.


Neither Design Thinking, nor Open Innovation, extend all the way to be concerned with product lifecycle (although the lifecycle of a product, service, experience or system could arguably be examined with Design Thinking or Open Innovation – but that becomes meta). There are two main dimensions to analyse a product: either studying how a product is: 1. Conceived, 2. Produced, 3. Distributed, 4. Consumed, 5. Disposed. OR how a product relates to the market: 1. Introduction 2. Growth. 3. Maturity, 4. Decline. [Source]

You might start to see where this is going: practices can be nested inside one another:

[Theory of Change [Product Lifecycle [Open Innovation [Design Thinking]]]

The logic behind this diagram: 

  1. Design Thinking can be used to come up with many ideas really quick at the very beginning of the process. It’s accessible to everyone. In this touching TED Talk, Cesar Jung-Harada’s mentor, Tom Chi explains how some of the world’s most high tech inventions were prototyped rapidly at Google x (Alphabet Group) with everyday items. 
  2. Open Innovation is a broader collaborative and competitive framework that helps to transition from the expansive phase of producing a quantity of ideas, to narrow down to THE idea that will be optimised to later “go into production”
  3. Product Lifecycle is about production, distribution, consumption, disposal. 
  4. Theory of Change can encompass all that the process, the product, service, experience, system engenders, good and bad, quantitative and qualitative.

This broad model will most likely upset purists, but it might help to articulate contemporary frameworks that many professional already understand in their own industries, and help beginners to envision the broad landscape they would be involved in, and at what level they want to engage with a challenge.

They key to the productivity of Impact Invention as an action model that combines local action and global impact is the ability to MEASURE and understand the impact of a given action. Impact Assessment is also an emerging discipline and industry. It combines qualitative and quantitative research, and that makes it a complex instrument. Impact Assessment is a whole other discipline, so it will be the subject of another post.

< pt 1 | pt 2 | pt 3 >

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