Collective innovation is based on connected, open, and collaborative processes to generate, develop, prioritize, and execute new ideas. While collective innovation is gaining significant attention by organizations, research on fundamental understanding of mechanisms enabling collective innovation is still in its infancy. One of the questions in enabling successful collective product innovation is: “How can activities of a large number of independent participants be coordinated?” Various researchers have studied coordination problems in traditional product realization processes, where the emphasis is on managing the dependencies between activities and resources. However, existing approaches for coordinating product development have limited applicability for collective product innovation because they are based on self-organizing communities as opposed to traditional hierarchies. To address this limitation, there is a need to understand how self-organization based coordination can be achieved in collective product innovation. In this paper, two key aspects of self-organization based coordination are highlighted: decentralization and evolution. A conceptual framework for understanding self-organization based coordination in collective product innovation is discussed. The framework highlights the dependencies between products, processes, individuals and organizational structures, which are important for coordination in collective product innovation. Various coordination mechanisms are required to manage these dependencies, thereby achieving decentralized, evolutionary coordination. For illustrative purposes, examples of such mechanisms used in open-source software development are discussed. Finally, an agent-based model is presented to quantitatively study the mechanisms for achieving decentralized evolutionary coordination. The conceptual framework and the agent-based model are used to derive insights for designing novel coordination mechanisms.

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