Many companies have embraced open source software. Linux, Ubuntu and Open Office, just to name a few. Companies are also crowdsourcing their designs and product innovations, and that’s a form of open source.
Can you think of ways to share your designs or processes and open up a new source of innovation in your company? To get an idea of what’s possible, look at this list of open source hardware projects at Kickstarter and some of the best on IndieGoGo. Both of these crowdfunding sites maintain a category for open source projects and they are often successful fundraisers.
Consumers and small-business owners appreciate the opportunity to be part of collaborative designs and innovations.
On these lists, you’ll find an open source lion-tracking collar, a new Braille display, 3-D printers and a new computer motherboard. All of these are technology-related, but there are plenty of examples in books, film and art.
As a small-business owner, you can take one of two open source paths:
Open source your own hardware or software product-development cycle and get something to market more rapidly.
Look at the open source projects on Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and elsewhere and iterate with a new product of your own. Of course, if you embark on an open source project and use the code or information, you have to share the code with others the way that it was shared with you.
Why go open source?
There are many reasons to go open source, but only one that really matters: collaboration.
When you stop looking at the world as me versus them, you realize that “we are smarter than me.” I’ve borrowed the phrase from Barry Libert’s crowdsourced book by the same title. The organization believes in unleashing the power of crowds and collaboration.
Bees collaborate and many focus on a single task.
A community will build around your products and designs. Essentially, you can create your own platform where others will come and help you, often for free, to be part of the innovation process. Each contributor will benefit from that freely accessible platform, too. That includes your small company.
Hat tip to Phillip Torrone from Make for “If You’re Going to Kill It, Open Source It.” He highlights products that have been shelved or discontinued that could have shifted to open source. He includes the Palm Pilot, which was acquired by HP, and then shelved.