Open Innovation: The Apple Case

First of all, what’s open innovation? Professor Chesbrough, executive director of the Center for Open Innovation, University of California, Berkeley, defines it as follows:

“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.”

In other words, open innovation is about linking internal and external resources to jump into opportunities to bring to market better innovation.

Thinking about companies that might be using this approach to boost their innovation capabilities the first one that popped up into my mind was Apple. Not only because I’m a fan of this brand’s product but also because the company is an icon of innovation and always meets their clients needs developing technology in the smoothest and smartest possible way.

But, where is the open innovation in Apple? It’s well known that the company keeps a tight lid on its employees, suppliers and partners, so their products remained a secret till the launching date. However this style of close innovation results in technology that is highly conductive to open innovation and the Apple brand is almost a synonymous of freethinking creativity.

It is a unique case, as Apple is a unique company, that shows the exception to the rule, where there is no need to open up innovation processes in order to build great products. The key fact is that innovation is in Apple’s corporate DNA, something not easy to replicate for other companies.

From my point of view whether Apple’s innovation technique remains within the company and it’s not linked with external sources, the way they approach technology seems to suggest that open innovation lessons are well known by the company and I wouldn’t be surprised if the brand, at some point, opens up their processes, getting closer to the full meaning of the open innovation concept.

To end up with, what can’t be denied is that using open or close innovation paths the company created by the late Steve Jobs has succeeded in teaching the world the importance and the value of one key idea: To think different.


Main references:

– «Open Innovation definition», accessed from:

– «Apple’s contribution to open innovation», accessed from:

– «The Apple exception», accessed from:

– «Innovation, lessons from Apple», accessed from:

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