This book is misnamed. Rather than being about open business models, the book's topic is about how to open business models to benefit from access to more technological innovation and strengthen your competitive posture through intellectual property.
As a result, Professor Chesbrough creates a misapprehension that successful open business models are almost always linked to technological innovation as their main purpose and benefit. My own research (with Carol Coles in The Ultimate Competitive Advantage: Secrets of Continuously Developing a More Profitable Business Model) indicates just the opposite point: Technological innovation is rarely the most effective way to open up your business model to create improvements.
So, this book's value is mostly to those who work in achieving or creating more benefits from technology innovation. If that is your interest, you've come to the right book. If that's not your interest, skip this book.
Why do those involved in achieving or creating more benefits from technology innovation need to open their business models? Professor Chesbrough points to several influences:
1. Technological innovation is coming from more sources than ever before. As a result, you will be developing inferior technology without accessing the best of what the world has to offer.
2. Most intellectual property isn't used for any practical purpose. That's a waste of social and company resources.
3. The protections for intellectual property are stronger now, and your pathway to progress will be blocked without collaborating with those who have complementary IP.
4. Product cycles are shorter and costs of developing new technologies are higher; open business models offer the promise of getting to market sooner at lower cost so that your business has a better chance of earning a decent return on new technology.
5. Large companies need to make new product development more productive if they are to meet their growth goals.
Professor Chesbrough does a nice job of developing those themes. He balances theoretical arguments with case histories of recent practices.
Of even more value, he explains how companies will have a hard time finding all of the technology they need without help. As a result, he feels that intermediaries will turn out to be important to helping connect organizations. His case histories of such intermediaries are very interesting in showing how difficult it is to play such intermediary roles without deep pockets.
For those who are new to the subject of technological innovation in the context of business models, you will find his descriptions of what a business model is (see page 182) and types for assessing your business model (see pages 132-133) to be helpful. The only quibble I would make with his types is that in his examples he assumes relative undifferentiation in industries and business types where there are often large nontechnological differentiations.
I found the last chapter to be by far the most helpful, in describing three case histories (IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Air Products) for showing how large organizations went from closed to open business models for the purpose of technological innovation. In fact, the discussion of Procter & Gamble's practices is the best one that I have read. That point, by itself, is sufficient to commend this book to you. I suspect that almost everyone will be doing what Procter & Gamble is doing now ten years hence.
Excellent work, Professor Chesbrough!