As a more recent example, in 2012 Tesla did something similar, 'opening up' many of its electric car patents, declaring they would not sue companies that used them under certain circumstances, in the interest of helping to build an ecosystem of car and component makers that expands the market for electrical cars.In 1959, Volvo invented the 3-point seat belt, then gave free license to all other car manufacturers to use it. pic.twitter.com/ONsdhmrpt9— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) December 8, 2016
There's other examples of innovations being 'open sourced' in some way to help share them. For example CKAN, the open data portal platform developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation, is open source - which has led to its widespread use by governments globally.
aGov, the Drupal platform used to deliver GovCMS, is also open source, and now deployed in over 400 instances around the world.
In both these cases vendors monetise these platforms through providing support services - but the platforms themselves are freely available should an organisation wish to go it alone.
Other examples of shared innovation include the code bases developed for government services and apps through Code for All and it's country-based affiliates, such as Code for America and Code for Australia.
Companies are sharing their AI research (and sometimes the code) - even the notoriously private Apple has recently announced that it will be taking part, in order to stay competitive in this fast changing field.
Governments are also, in certain cases, sharing their code - such as the US Army, which has shared code from its cyber defense systems to help tap the experience of others to improve their capabilities, and to help other organisations improve their own cyber defences.
The US Government even open sourced its open sourcing policy, along with a range of services it has built, so they can be easily reused by other governments.
There's been a little of this in Australia as well. The National Map is open source, as are several other systems. The Digital Transformation Agency has also worked in this space, open sourcing the code for their Alpha gov.au site and the text for its Design Guide.
However most innovation that could be shared is still not shared in a structured way.
Certainly events such as the new Public Sector Innovation Awards help raise awareness, and reward, innovations across the public sector, and can generate some informal sharing post event. Networks such as the Public Sector Innovation Network also play a role, at least in helping share ideas within the network itself, if not with the wider community.
But these are still largely inwards looking. They neither provide formal ways for agencies to share their innovations with other agencies or the community at large, or for agencies or those outside government to locate relevant innovations that might support their own endeavours, with a blueprint on how to implement them.
They also are poor tools for bringing innovation into government from outside - for learning from the daily innovation activity across more than 2 million businesses in Australia, and hundreds of millions worldwide.
There's really no current consistent structured method to find the right needles in that global haystack, the shared innovations that would transform an agency, company or community, solving problems and lifting their effectiveness.
This conversation, about how we share innovations effectively, is the one we need to have to scale the fantastic innovation work being done behind closed doors across Canberra, across Australia and across the world.
Without it all the work going into transforming organisations to be innovative is simply creating new types of silos, where innovation happens within a room and is poorly shared or built on by others who could leverage it.
I also believe that in this broader discussion of how to share innovations wisely and widely, we'll also find answers to the question of how to make organisations more innovative, as sharing will promote greater thinking about innovation 'within the walls' as well as without.