Analysis of open innovation communities from the perspective of Social Network Analysis

Rocio Martinez-Torres


Purpose: Open innovation represents an emergent paradigm by which organizations make use of internal and external resources to drive their innovation processes. The growth of information and communication technologies has facilitated the emergence of online open innovation communities which allow a direct contact with customers and users. The aim of this work consists of analyzing the behavior of open innovation community members from the perspective of social network analysis, in order to determine to what extent the activity of users is related to the interest that posted ideas are generating and to what extent the scoring systems based on collective intelligence are adequate for the identification of users posting ideas that can be potentially implemented by the organization.

Design/methodology/approach: Open innovation communities can be represented as graphs, where the nodes represent the community members and the arcs between nodes represent the interactions among users according to the different ways of participation allowed within the community. Using social network analysis techniques, several variables representing different participation features of community members can be collected. The correlation coefficients among these variables provide information about the relationships among users' activity, the interest that their posted ideas arouse within the community and the score that posted ideas receive from the rest of the community.

Findings and Originality/value: Obtained results show a positive correlation among the different participation possibilities offered by the studied community. That means that users which are active posting ideas are also active commenting or scoring other users' ideas. However, obtained results also show that those ideas generating more interest among community members are not always the ones that receive a better evaluation by other community members. With respect to those ideas which are finally implemented by the organization, obtained results point out that they are in general the ones that arouse more interest within the community rather that the ones that obtain a better evaluation.

Research limitations/implications: This work analyzes the case study of IdeaStorm innovation community promoted by Dell. Despite of being a single case study, it is representative enough as IdeaStorm is one of the most popular innovation communities and one of the pioneers in the implementation of the open innovation paradigm.

Practical implications: Putting into practice open innovation communities has the drawback of the huge volume of generated information, many times quite difficult to process by the innovation department of the organization. That is the reason why it is quite important for the organization to know the patterns of behavior of community members, how the community scoring system is working and to what extent posted ideas are aligned with the organization strategic innovation policies.

Originality/value: This work deals with the issue of putting into practice the open innovation paradigm using social network analysis techniques for modeling the behavior and activity of users belonging to open innovation communities. Moreover, this study not only considers the activity of community members but also the implications for the organization in the form of ideas that have been finally implemented.


Open innovation, Online communities, Social network analysis

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Intangible Capital, 2004-2020

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience