Initial Situation

Innovative strength in Germany can be found in the domain of engineering and industrial commodities. A prominent example is the German automobile industry. This statement cannot, however, be applied to German software producers who are only average compared to other leading European countries or for example the US. According to a survey of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, German software producers lack a business culture which fosters systematic innovation activities. There is no systematic brainstorming in order to generate ideas for innovations: idea generation takes place informally without sustainability and is often driven by coincidence. To further complicate the matter, software producers are not using the innovative potential of customers to drive innovation. For example, the demands, wishes, and requirements of customers are often not used systematically for new product development. Customers are treated as recipients of products, not as a source of innovation. As a consequence, German software producers generate fewer real innovations compared to software producers from other countries. Many software companies focus on generating incremental innovations and thus simply improve their existing software products over a long period of time without generating disruptive or radical innovations. A chance for software companies to overcome these problems lies in opening up their innovation activities to customers. In this context the integration of customers is frequently seen as one of the biggest resources for innovations. The underlying idea is that the integration of stakeholders will open up the company’s innovation funnel, with more potential perspectives or ideas for creating innovations entering the innovation process. In other words, the amount of innovation potential that can be poured into the innovation funnel is rising because more actors are actively involved. So, the creative potential of the own customer base can be used for the sake of new product development. The open source software movement shows that this strategy of open innovation is especially promising for the field of software development.

Project Aim

The project GENIE intends to develop new methods, models and instruments for systematically developing and running communities for innovation consisting of employees and stakeholders (e.g. customers, project and research partners as well as suppliers). The proposed community for innovation aims at supporting software companies at every stage of their innovation process. Acting via an Internet platform, community members can generate ideas and collaborate with each other. Each member can submit ideas, connect with idea contributors who submitted similar or complementary ideas, and elaborate ideas in collaboration with matched members. Thus, the community enables forming various networks/teams that will collaboratively elaborate better, more meaningful, and more relevant ideas compared to those initially submitted. This mechanism will help to select the best ideas, to develop innovations more systematically, and will increase the company’s entire innovative potential.


As the concept of community for innovations is a new approach to innovation management, general theories about this novel method do not yet exist. Thus, this research is designed as an explorative pilot project combining different methods of creating novel, socio-technical innovations. In several phases the GENIE approach’s methods and instruments development and testing is alternated. Based on this method, the GENIE concept has to prove in real-world settings so that continuous improvement can be realized in each iteration. Thus, a high external validity of results as well as a frictionless knowledge transfer to software enterprises can be assured. For successfully supporting the creation of innovations, the development of the GENIE communities consists of several integrative building blocks. On the one hand a technical platform and tools for communicating, collaborating and visualizing ideas have to be implemented. On the other hand a broad organizational framework has to be developed in the scope of a management concept for making collaborative innovation development happen. This comprises e.g. the motivation of potential participants by delivering the right incentive structure as well as methods for an effective community management. Furthermore, new user interfaces are integrated for extending the collaborative innovation creation into the “physical” world. The IdeaMirror™ - a tool for visualizing ideas on public large screen displays - enables the presentation and evaluation of ideas, which were originally submitted in the online community, on trade fairs, entrance halls or lounges. So, the ideas get presented to a bigger target group, their discussion and refinement is improved and network possibilities among idea contributors are facilitated. Finally, the GENIE approach comprises the development and testing of an integrative competence development concept for the employees of software companies. Due to the innovation process’s aperture employees have to cope with a broad range of new challenges. Thus, existing skills have continuously to be improved and new ones to be learned.

Work Packages:

In the scope of the project, the technical components of the GENIE Approach, the Idea Management Platform as well as the IdeaMirror have been prototyped. Moreover, the GENIE Management Approach has been developed in order to build, stimulate and operate innovation communities. This approach consists of several concepts for organizing the community, motivating the community members, creating a community culture and for conducting offline events. A sophisticated concept for measuring idea quality and controlling the community has been worked out. The technical as well as the organizational components of the GENIE approach were tested in two distinct field tests with SAP AG and gate Garching. Based on several empirical case studies an open innovation capability maturity model addressing such issues such as leadership or controlling of open innovation has been developed. Furthermore, tool-support for activating users and user collaboration in order to enhance idea quality as well as the absorptive capacity of the community-initiating communities is researched. Another research question is how community-members can be involved in selecting ideas using different approaches such as rating scales and prediction markets.


In the conducted field test the developed GENIE approach passed its litmus test. Two communities for innovation have been built up that improve innovation development at our software partners. In this regard, especially the SAPiens community that has been initiated with SAP turned out to be successful. The community has been run for a six-month period, in which 186 newly acquired members generated more than 150 ideas. In future the SAPiens community will be internationalized and extended into other markets than Germany.


Scientific Partners

Technische Universität München, Chair of Information Systems (Prof. Krcmar)
Handelshochschule Leipzig, Center for Leading Innovation and Cooperation (Prof. Möslein)
Universität der Bundeswehr München, Cooperation Systems Center (Prof. Koch)

Business Partners

HYVE AG (Munich-based innovation software company and consultancy)
gate Garching (business incubator at Technische Universität München

Research Funding

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF
Förderkennzeichen: 01FM07027

Additional Information

Gemeinschaftsgestützte Innovationsentwicklung für Softwareunternehmen


Dr. Michael Huber