Balancing Open and Closed Innovation in Megaprojects: Insights from Crossrail
ideas, and use information systems to
foster innovation (Winch, 2010; Winch,
2015) and enhance “network connectivity” (Björk & Magnusson, 2009)
within and across the organizations of
the megaproject. The projects that were
most successful in the innovation submissions had the largest and most active
working groups. Overall, we learned that
open and closed innovation can be combined and leveraged together by creating
an appropriate communication environment, whose elements include not only
organizational arrangements (e.g., team
organization and task assignment) but
also the definitions of methods and rules
of communication (Phillips, 2014).
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Indeed, our findings suggest that innovation strategies for megaprojects are
more likely to succeed when individual
projects “pinch” innovations from other
projects, which is greatly facilitated when
the main contractors undertake multiple
projects within the same program.
Interestingly, the sources of innovation (both open and closed) that we
identified were within the control of the
principal contractors, as well as Crossrail Limited. This supports the idea that
contractors have great influence on
the outcomes of innovative efforts in
megaprojects (Gann, 2000; Hansford &
Pitcher, 2013), and suggests that these
firms should probably be more actively
involved in deciding the features and
shaping the organization of an innovation
program than they were on Crossrail. As
a matter of fact, the projects that consistently raised awareness of the innovation
program among their employees were
the most successful in submitting new
ideas and obtaining funding through the
innovation competitions. The literature
does not provide precise insights into the
importance of raising awareness among
employees about generating and capturing innovations, but in temporary organizations this seemed to emerge as an
essential means to ensuring successful
engagement with structured innovation
The fact that the ideas submitted to
the program were discussed and filtered
through multiple layers of assessment,
from the project up to the program level,
implied the involvement of many people
performing different roles to develop
each new idea. Extant literature has
found that particularly strong personal
ties between people in different parts of
a large organization expand the chances
of successful adoption and implemen-
tation of new ideas (Kijkuit & van den
Ende, 2010). Although the temporary
nature of projects might not allow suf-
ficient time for establishing such ties,
the experience of Crossrail shows that
managers can effectively create the con-
ditions for communicating and sharing
with subcontractors and involving non-
project actors too. This allowed the
project teams to draw from large crowds
of potential innovators and benefit from
a wide range of technical disciplines
Indeed, Crossrail’s innovation activities supported a temporary coalition of
organizations that functioned as a business ecosystem. Business ecosystems
are settings where multiple players hold
ambiguous relationships of cooperation
and competition while contributing to a
common goal, generally without direct
contractual arrangements (Moore, 1993;
Moore, 1996; Moore, 2006). Although all
the organizations in the megaprojects
were interconnected through contracts,
innovation was not measured by performance indicators, nor was it used
to regulate the relationships between
the parties. Rather, the success of the
innovation program rested on Crossrail
Limited’s ability to create a cooperative culture, possibly supported, but not
necessarily enforced, by the use of collaborative forms of contracts (notably,
elements such as intellectual property
were not raised by any of the interviewees as barriers to innovation).
Our findings, therefore, suggest that
innovation can be harnessed within a
large project coalition when the program management shapes the coalition
as a community of practice and builds
it around the common goal of innovation so that individual advantages are
combined with program-level organizational benefits (Lee, Reinicke, Sarkar,
& Anderson, 2015). Figure 2 shows that,
despite the boundaries between projects, and the typical reluctance of contractors to share innovative ideas that
have strategic impact, formal and informal practices of communication can still
be put in place to encourage knowledge
exchange and sharing between teams
and projects (Mueller, 2015). From a
project and program management point
of view, this provides insights into the
relationship between the program and
the projects and the most suitable structure and composition of the program