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Open Innovation Ecosystem: Chez Panisse Case Study


The concept of open innovation has been highly popularized both in academia and industry for the last decade. Various types of firms have been studied from high tech to service. Yet, there has been limited academic review of open innovation as a collective business ecosystem. In particular, little research exists on how a business ecosystem is generated, how it adopts concepts associated with open innovation in its business practice, and what sustains an ecosystem over time.

My dissertation demonstrates how one business entity - Chez Panisse - started its business journey and how it practiced what is popularly called open innovation within its community for over 42 years. In order to do so, I closely observed and participated in understanding the California Cuisine ecosystem to collect data. I employed a single-case study method by incorporating in-depth interviews, participatory observation, as well as a thorough collection of publically available data. The research findings indicate that (1) knowledge spillover was a conduit to expand and grow the Chez Panisse ecosystem, (2) co-creation of products and services with ecosystem participants contributed to collective ecosystem innovation, and (3) social innovation and learning were key factors in strengthening the bond among stakeholders and enabled the ecosystem's expansion to the nation, and global level.

I introduce the concept of an Open Innovation Ecosystem as a business ecosystem that co-creates innovations with its stakeholders and captures co-created values collectively within the ecosystem. The Chez Panisse case illustrates how what is popularly referred to as open innovation can be practiced at the level of a business ecosystem and become an important factor in its growth and expansion. The research outcomes suggest that business practitioners should consider employing the approaches identified in this thesis if they are interested in designing, creating and growing or maintaining a business ecosystem. These results additionally indicate that participants of the Chez Panisse open innovation ecosystem stayed engaged because of the educational and social innovation aspects; therefore businesses may want to consider the role that education and social innovation can play in sustaining a healthy business ecosystem.

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