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Foresight by Online Communities - The Case of Renewable Energies

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Web 2.0 offers manifold ways in order to integrate community members via online communities (OCs) for innovation processes. OCs prove to be a valuable and dynamic source of information. External information sources are also important for foresight in order to be able to identify and monitor all relevant changes. However, traditional foresight methods are rather static in comparison with dynamic OCs. Thus, this study gives first insights into the use of OCs for foresight. First, based on literature, it is conceptually shown that OCs can contribute to foresight. Second, the question of how to assess the potential of OCs for foresight is considered. Renewable energies OCs are identified using a netnographic approach. One selected OC is analyzed in-depth by applying a prior developed criteria catalog which is based on Popper's (2008) foresight diamond. Each of its four dimensions – creativity, expertise, interaction, and evidence – is operationalized with measurement items taken from literature. In particular, the evidence dimension is supported by a text mining approach. Lastly, a focus group interview proves the usefulness of OCs for foresight. The findings show that OCs can contribute to each dimension of the foresight diamond and serve as an additional source of information for foresight.
The complete paper can be found here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040162517306650

Publié dans : Médias sociaux
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Foresight by Online Communities - The Case of Renewable Energies

  1. 1. Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg Institute of Technology and Innovation Management Prof. Dr. Hans Koller Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Michael A. Zeng 23rd Innovation and Product Development Management Conference @ 14th Open and User Innovation Conference @ Presented at the Zeng, Michael A. (2018). Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 129, 27-42, DOI: 10.1016/j.techfore.2018.01.016. Published as:
  2. 2. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies „Corporate foresight is an ability that includes any structural or cultural element that enables the company  to detect discontinuous change early,  interpret the consequences for the company, and  formulate effective responses to ensure the long-term survival and success of the company.“ Rohrbeck 2010, p. 11 What is Foresight? 2 26 March 2018
  3. 3. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Lead User & Customer Communities Crowd, Social Web, Big Data Research Partner Lead Supplier & Strategic Partner 3 From Foresight to “Open Foresight” von Hippel, 2010, 1986 Janzik and Raasch, 2011 Howe, 2006; Boudreau and Lakhani, 2013 26 March 2018 Open foresight is “the systematic use of distributed information sources in order to anticipate the future corporate business environment and support an organization’s strategic decision making.” (Ehls et al. 2016, p. 12)
  4. 4. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Lead User & Customer Communities Crowd, Social Web, Big Data Research Partner Lead Supplier & Strategic Partner 4 From Foresight to “Open Foresight” von Hippel, 2010, 1986 Howe, 2006; Bodreau and Lakhani, 2013 26 March 2018 Open foresight is “the systematic use of distributed information sources in order to anticipate the future corporate business environment and support an organization’s strategic decision making.” (Ehls et al. 2016, p. 12) Janzik and Raasch, 2011 First attempts in the direction of open foresight with communities •Social networks (Cachia et al., 2007; Kayser & Bierwisch, 2016) •Web forums (Woo et al., 2015) •OCs (Zeng, 2018; Zeng et al., 2017; Zeng et al., 2018)
  5. 5. 1. Are online communities useful for foresight in general? 2. How to assess the potential of online communities for foresight? Research Questions
  6. 6. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Integrating OCs into Foresight Processes 26 March 2018 6 Generally young mean age of the members  general open towards future-oriented themes  attractive for creative tasks Their expert knowledge Members are able to communicate free of charge and without delay Posts are public available which makes the data easy accessible Size of the community Thematically broad spectrum of existing OCs Qualitatively high discussions about future developments CHARACTERISTICSTYPESOFUSE Based on Chesbrough, 2004; Da Costa et al. 2006; Janzik and Raasch, 2011; Zeng, 2014 Active use of OCs: communication tool for conducting foresight in cooperation with the members Passive use of OCs: source of information (e.g., by using netnography (Kozinets, 2006))
  7. 7. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies The Idea 26 March 2018 7 Online Communities “We define an OC as an association of individuals who share a common interest or goal and regularly ‘meet’ and communicate virtually via a technical platform on the Internet.“ (Janzik & Raasch, 2011) (Martin, 1995; Koller, 2009; Burgelman et al., 2004; Rohrbeck, 2010) Foresight
  8. 8. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Georghiou (2001) Cachia et al. (2007) Popper (2008) Online Communities Development of the Criteria Catalog 26 March 2018 8 Creativity Expertise Interaction Creativity Expertise Interaction Social Networks This paper (2018)
  9. 9. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Measurement Criteria 1: Creativity • How Popper (2008) defines it: “Creativity refers to the mixture of original and imaginative thinking and is often provided by artists or technology ‘gurus’, for example. These methods rely heavily on the inventiveness and ingenuity of very skilled individuals […].” • What I want to measure: amount of creative solutions or ideas in the OC • How I want to measure it: 26 March 2018 9 Dean et al., 2006; Jawecki et al., 2011; Sosa and Dong, 2013, Jeppesen and Fredriksen, 2006 Creativity Novelty Workability Paradigm relatedness Originality Acceptability Implementability  Experts in the domain in question are then asked to evaluate the creativity of the idea (Amabile 1983; Amabile et al. 1996)
  10. 10. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies • How Popper (2008) defines it: “Expertise refers to the skills and knowledge of individuals in a particular area or subject […].” • What I want to measure: the expertise in the OC • How I want to measure it: –User expertise (Bilgram et al., 2008; Brem and Bilgram, 2015) • Use experience: amount of posts • Product-related knowledge: amount of technical terms • Activity: post per day behavior (Janzik and Raasch, 2011) Measurement Criteria 2: Expertise 26 March 2018 10 Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2002; Cachia et al., 2007; Jeppesen and Laursen, 2009; Belz and Baumbach, 2010 –Background: members’ profiles
  11. 11. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Measurement Criteria 3: Interaction • How Popper (2008) defines it: “Interaction recognises that expertise often gains considerably from being brought together […].” • What I want to measure: interaction between experts in the OC • How I want to measure it: – Amount of members in one thread – Amount of posts in one thread – Average amount of posts per member 26 March 2018 11 Füller et al., 2004; Janzik and Herstatt, 2008; Ang, 2011; Janzik and Raasch, 2011; Saritas et al., 2013; Nikolova, 2014; Zeng, 2014
  12. 12. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Measurement Criteria 4: Evidence • How Popper (2008) defines it: “Evidence recognises that it is important to attempt to explain and/or forecast a particular phenomenon with the support of reliable documentation and means of analysis of, for example, statistics and various types of measurement indicators.” • What I want to measure and how: – Are the ideas or trends confirmed or illustrated using data, literature (external information material) etc.? – Text mining in the form of topic modeling (Blei et al., 2003; Turney and Pantel, 2010; Blei, 2012) 26 March 2018 12 Da Costa et al., 2006; Hand, 2009; Hassani and Silva, 2015
  13. 13. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Measurement Criteria: Summary 26 March 2018 13 Creativity • Novelty: • Paradigm relatedness • Originality • Workability: • Acceptability • Implementability Expertise • User expertise •Use experience: amount of posts •Product-related knowledge: amount of technical terms •Activity: post per day behavior • Background: members’ profiles • Interaction • Amount of members in one thread • Amount of posts in one thread • Average amount of posts per member Evidence • Are the ideas or trends confirmed or illustrated using data, literature etc.? • Text mining in the form of topic modeling
  14. 14. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Method: Netnographic Approach • Netnography has its origin in ethnography (Arnould and Wallendorf, 1994). • It is a qualitative research method for observing OCs • In comparison with offline ethnography, it is a faster, simpler, and cheaper version for market research (Kozinets, 2002) • It allows to investigate the members’ behavior and interaction, without requiring the researchers to actively participate in the group respectively OC (Kozinets, 2006, 2002) – Freely available data on the Internet is used – The OC is monitored during a specific time frame – No bias from researchers appears due to the natural setting of the community – No direct influence from researchers which can occur through an experimental setting (Jawecki et al., 2011) → “Grounded knowledge” regarding certain research questions is gained (Glaser and Strauss, 1967).  This paper and research question requires netnography as study method: in-depth analysis of members’ content, their interactions, as well as their profiles 26 March 2018 14
  15. 15. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Empirical Field: Selected Online Communities (1) This paper analyzes OCs dedicated to the field of renewable energies Why? 1. Future oriented industry 2. Affected by different conditions regarding social, technical, economic, environmental, and political (STEEP) trends and regulations 3. Through the explorative search in different industries, it was found that there is a huge potential for user innovations 26 March 2018 15
  16. 16. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Empirical Field: Selected Online Communities (2) 26 March 2018 16 various selection criteria like (1) community size, (2) activity, and (3) interaction (Hara et al., 2009) 27 OCs (1) spawn foresight potential in terms of future trends, desires, and scenarios as well as (possible) user innovations (2) open access to the members’ profiles for using this as a proxy for members’ expertise1 OC Renewable Energies; Green Technologies; Wind Energy; Solar Energy Forum; Community; Blog; Discussion Board How were the online communities selected? Search terms
  17. 17. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Empirical Field: Selected Online Communities (3) Community Members Posts Language Operator (since) Structure Green Power Talk 1,698 9,649 English Firm- hosted (2006) Start page, forum, groups, photo gallery, calendar Forum with 5 main categories Focus on main category Renewable Energies with the sub-category “Do-It- Yourself” Navitron 7,002 320,048 English Firm- hosted (2006) Forum only Forum with 14 main categories Opened a thread named ‘The Future of Renewable Energies’ in the sub-category “Inventions, Ideas, Innovation, Bodges etc.” Fieldlines 6,214 224,699 English Firm- hosted (2003) Forum only Forum with nine main categories Opened a thread named ‘The Future of Renewable Energies’ in the sub-category “The Pub” 26 March 2018 17 Overview of Renewable Energies OCs (September 2017)
  18. 18. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Assessment of Popper’s creativity dimension 26 March 2018 18 • workshop in November 2016 with a focus group (Armstrong, 2006; Koller, 2009; Krueger and Casey, 2015) • 9 renewable energies experts (solar, hydro, wind energy, but also from traditional energy supply) • Semi-structured, guided by moderators with previously developed questions using an interview guideline, t ~ 1h • Audio recorded with the permission of each participant and afterwards transcribed verbatim (Calder, 1977; Carey, 1994; Kitzinger, 1994; Merton et al., 1990) • The experts discussed the results from step 1 and 2 1 2 3 Assessment of future developments General usefulness of OCs for foresight Focus group interview (Kitzinger, 1994)
  19. 19. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Method: Data Collection and Analysis (1) August 27, 2014 19 Green Power Talk was observed during a period of four months Posts, pictures, and videos by the OC’s members were read (more than 4800 posts in 530 threads) All relevant discussions were downloaded as text files for further analyses Category system developed: qualitative content analysis approach (Kuckartz, 2014) Data was imported into a qualitative text analysis tool (MaxQDA v. 12) and analysed Netnographic approach (Kozinets, 2006, 2002) Overview of different member types and their characteristics as well as their levels of activity Focus was on threads dealing with user diaries & do-it-yourself-projects, innovations, and “hare- brained” ideas
  20. 20. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Method: Text Mining Approach • Text mining is used in order to generate more insights on the usefulness and assessment of OCs for foresight, in particular in the ‘evidence’ dimension • Exploratory study: probabilistic topic modeling using the Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) algorithm (Blei, 2012) is chosen as an appropriate research method in order to inductively discover patterns of the future discussed by OCs – Probabilistic topic models identify topics by labeling documents with a suitable topic (Blei et al., 2003) – Follows the ‘distributional hypothesis’, i.e., words co-occurring in similar circumstances likely have related meanings (Turney and Pantel, 2010) – Thus, sets of words which co-occur frequently can be labeled with the same topic (Boyd-Graber et al., 2014) – Overcomes the human boundaries of manual text analysis regarding quantity and reduces human biases in terms of content (Urquhart, 2001) 26 March 2018 20 ...
  21. 21. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Method: Data Collection and Analysis (2) August 27, 2014 21 posts no older than 2010 at the latest were extracted from the OC using the web-based platform import.io The cleaned data set was then uploaded to the cloudbased tool MineMyText.com (Debortoli et al., 2017) Preparation cycles in order to determine an applicable number of topics (5 to 20) Final topic model consisted of 8 topics: more topics produced similar or duplicate results and less topics led to unclear distinction between topics Fine-tuning of the topic model: ‘stopping’, ‘stemming’, ‘lemmatizing’, ‘POS’, removing numbers and HTML-tags, n-gram tokenizing Text mining approach (Blei et al., 2003; Turney and Pantel, 2010; Blei, 2012) final data set: posts, including other metadata such as date, time, user name, section, and sub-sections (01/2010 to 08/2017)
  22. 22. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Findings: Community Structure and Members • Standalone OC using bulletin board forum technology • Established in November, 2006 • Firm-hosted OC by the Canadian company Solacity Inc., which is a provider of renewable energies technologies for home appliances • approx. 1,700 members of which ca. 700 members posted at least once • Contains 1,554 threads with 9,649 posts (September 2017) • The analysis was focused on the category renewable energies with the subsections Solar Electricity, Solar Heating & Cooling, Hydro Power, Wind Power, Do-It-Yourself, Balance-of-Systems, Biofuel, and Government Incentives • 1,085 threads with 7,283 posts were read and scanned for either ideas, scenarios, trends, problems, or user innovations 26 March 2018 22 Solar Electricity Hydro Power Wind Power Do-It- Yourself Total Analyzed threads Amount of threads analyzed 200 32 136 75 Amount of posts analyzed 1,468 208 1,992 448 Amount of selected threads 3 4 5 6 18 Total amount of persons involved in selected threads 40 25 22 47 134 (73 unique members) Types of future developments Future concepts 4 2 1 4 11 User innovations 2 2 3 4 11 Frugal approaches 1 - 1 - 2
  23. 23. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies http://www.greenpowertalk.org/ 26 March 2018 23
  24. 24. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Findings: Foresight Diamond 26 March 2018 24 Creativity* •Novelty: •Originality: 2.6 •Paradigm relatedness: 2.0 •Workability: •Acceptability: 3.3 •Implementability: 2.6 Expertise • Amount of posts per member (use experience): between 1 and 1760 (mean = 78.9) • Amount of technical terms (product-related knowledge): between 12 and 336 (mean = 111) • Members’ (n = 73) post per day behavior (activity): 1 innovator/activist (> 0.5), 4 tourists/crowd-followers (≥ 0.1 ≤ 0.5), and 68 lurkers (> 0 < 0.1) • Interaction • Amount of members in one thread: between 2 and 13 persons (mean = 5.8) • Amount of posts in one thread: between 4 and 36 (mean = 19.2) • Average amount of posts per member: between 1.0 and 6.0 (mean = 2.68) Evidence • encyclopedias (5) • studies/reports (4) • statistics (3) • patents (3) • diagram (1) • circuit diagrams/construction plans (4) • links to descriptions weblogs/websites (7) • links to descriptions of components/technologies (58 times) • newspapers (3) • other discussions (3) • other user innovations (3)  mean = 4.1 sources per thread * Numbers are based on 21 approaches rated by two to seven experts on a four-point Likert- scale (4: highest score; 1: lowest score)
  25. 25. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Findings: Topic Modeling Topic Words Labels 1 tower, make, blade, turbin, wire, put, cabl, foot, good, rum Wind and solar tower 2 work, turbin, post, good, wind, find install, forum, invert, buy Finding the right wind turbine with the help of the OC 3 power, energi, solar, electr, make, generat, water, wind, build, system Different energy systems to generate power 4 batteri, panel, watt, power, system, invert, run, day, charg, volt Battery power systems 5 turbin, wind, power, wind_turbin, rpm, wind_spe, blade, altern, motor, good Wind turbines and their characteristics 6 invert, voltage, power, control, turbin, grid, connect, switch, work, set Inverter and power controller 7 instal, year, roof, cost, panel, system, microfit, price, OPA, number Installation costs of solar panel systems 8 solar, project, pv, market, develop, industry, company, energy, pv_guangzhou, china The solar energy market 26 March 2018 25 • 195,744 words with 4289 unique words were used for the topic modeling • time span was from January 2010 to August 2017 • final eight of the topic modeling approach with the 10 most probable words:
  26. 26. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Findings: World Cloud for Topic Eight 26 March 2018 26
  27. 27. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Findings: Timeline of Topic Eight 26 March 2018 27
  28. 28. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Findings: Trends Discussed in the OC “Put the reactor in space, or on the moon. Then you can operate the partially-enriched reactor for 10 times as long. If it melts down nobody will care. Or, better yet, put solar panels in space where they will be 5× as productive, and not take up any real-estate. In the end solar wins. We will eventually run out of fissile material, but we will never run out of silicon. The problem just comes down to who wants to spend the billions to put the first solar power plant in orbit?” “Storage and handling baseload is the key issue. From an engineering perspective, nuclear is king for baseload. This is why I too believe storage systems are the holy grail of renewable energy. I'm convinced that today's panel efficiencies are enough. What we need is a way of dealing with the uneven supply, rather than generating more electricity at a single point in time.” “Hey […] that was a really interesting post that you shared. I wonder if in the near future this type of technology will be taken into consideration by major corporations.” 26 March 2018 28 Inclined solar tower to produce electricity Reactor or solar panels in space Storage of energy is the key issue in the future
  29. 29. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Findings: Experts’ Statements “Whether the wind turbines become bigger or smaller, that is completely uninteresting. Deriving the trend from that is rather important. I believe this is the interesting thing that the development of the entire energy sector can be deduced from those discussions.” “I think it is very important for such forums that not only laymen and hobbyists discuss, because […] then the topic is very short term oriented […]. Instead, people have to take a little bigger horizon […]. A discussion, e.g. in 20 years, can I actually still rear in my brook a water wheel, because […] the water may be so scarce in 20 years [...]. I mean the discussion, which we now had based on the ideas, which were only described very shortly, have already produced new ideas. I find it very interesting, when you start discussing, then you get new ideas […]. But everything is rather in the now and tomorrow but not in the day after tomorrow. If you really want to use something like foresight, and if you want to look a bit longer in the future, then maybe a community and such a forum has to be completely different.” “What I could imagine, for example, that if we […] put in a future energy community the question: How do we get the electricity we produce back to earth? And then they discuss and perhaps different ideas come up. [...] I believe that this is exactly the space we need in order to have a ‘the thoughts are free’-like discussion about the future.” 26 March 2018 29
  30. 30. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Implications for Research 26 March 2018 30 See Popper (2008) Creativity Evidence Expert Panels Key/ Critical Technologies Interviews Essays Scenarios SWOT Brainstorming Futures WorkshopsDelphi Extrapolation Scanning Literature Review Netnographic Analysis and Text Mining of Online Communities Interaction Expertise • Outlines participatory foresight approaches in form of integrating different external partners simultaneously • Contributes to the discussion on new foresight methods (Cachia et al., 2007; Popper, 2008) 1.develops a procedure to select suitable OCs for foresight using the proposed criteria catalog 2.shows the with the empirical material from one exemplified OC the potential of the information gained from OCs for foresight  The research field on foresight methods is enlarged by one more modern approach which draws on dynamic sources of information rather than static methods OCs develop... ...creative concepts and scenarios ... ...with their expert knowledge, ... ... and elaborate these even further by interaction ... ... and the use of external information material
  31. 31. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Managerial Implications 1. The findings show that there is potential for using OCs as source of information for foresight – Deriving possible future developments from OCs’ ideas and user innovations • Takes place as an interaction between the firm and the OC through collective thinking • May lead to decreased risk of product failure and missed business opportunities – Overcoming today’s challenge of rapid change as well as being ahead of the market 2. Good starting point for companies to work closely together with OCs in the field of foresight and open up their foresight process – Companies can identify a suitable OC for their foresight field → get a glimpse into the future and some impressions of what community members discuss – allows for a more coherent and broad view on the future and the scanning of the environment and the future solution space is eased and widened 3. Especially important for companies' divisions which deal with future developments – might also be interesting for innovation managers • This study has shown that future concepts as well as incremental improvements of, and problems with, products are described in OCs • Thus, innovation managers are also able to identify improvements of their existing products – The foresight and the innovation divisions should work closely together in order to extract the most information and knowledge from the OCs 4. Innovative and future-minded community members appear seldom in OCs – Companies should identify those community members and include them into their foresight process – Those community members can act as early indicators for changes and trends 26 March 2018 31
  32. 32. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Limitations and Future Research 1.Hard to generalize from two OCs of one industry Future research: - other market segments, products, or industries - other supporting methods such as social network analysis 2.Most discussions concern current problems and future-minded members appear seldom Future research: focus on those future-minded community members and integrate those community members into companies’ foresight 3.Most community members’ approaches are concepts or small own projects Future research: observe such approaches over a longer period of time in order to identify whether those future concepts lead into innovative solutions 4.Open conversational vs. survey-based foresight approach Future research: examine survey-based collaborative foresight approaches (Delphi studies) 5.Future concepts were assessed by experts Future research: how would other community members rate those concepts?  move in the direction of online reputation systems (e.g., Lakhani and von Hippel, 2003) 6.Governance of OCs (Störmer and Herstatt, 2014) Future research: How and under which conditions might it be useful for a firm to host its own OC especially for foresight? Might it be useful to run future contests on this OC and use them actively rather than passively? Or, rather, develop entire online foresight platforms (Raford, 2015)? 26 March 2018 32
  33. 33. Michael A. Zeng Foresight by Online Communities – The Case of Renewable Energies Thank you! Questions, Comments? Michael A. Zeng Institute of Technology and Innovation Management Helmut-Schmidt-University/ University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg Holstenhofweg 85 22043 Hamburg Germany +49 (0) 40 65 41 37 35 michael.zeng@hsu-hh.de ! ? 26 March 2018 33

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