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Is open source the key to innovation?

Open source could lead the next wave of innovation.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much," Helen Keller, one of the most inspirational figures of the 20th century, famously stated.

Collaboration is a core component of modern business, and over the years, collaborative efforts have resulted in some of the world's most groundbreaking innovations, in the areas of technology, medicine and engineering. The opportunities are seemingly endless when people unite and work together, whether within a single organization or across many.

But what if this collaborative ethos is extended to include practically every human being on earth? Are there any limitations on what can be accomplished?

That is the question that open source initiatives are seeking to answer as they aim to forever change how we businesses think about technology and collaboration. Without open source, many of today's top technology initiatives - from cloud computing to big data and mobile - would simply not exist as we know them. In the enterprise software world for instance, OpenStack - a popular open source cloud computing platform - is changing how organizations manage multiple cloud deployments with new levels of innovation, efficiency and simplicity.

The ability to invite the entire world to continuously improve a product or technology is now no longer a dream, and is happening before our eyes. So, just how can open source herald a new era of innovation?

The ability to invite the entire world to continuously improve a product or technology is now no longer a dream, and is happening before our eyes. So, just how can open source herald a new era of innovation?

It harnesses the power of the collective

Gone are the days of developers working in isolation with limited resources. In this day and age, thanks to the advent of open source technology, the R&D room has been opened up to the entire world.

As the source code is freely available to the wider world, practically anyone with a working knowledge of it - from hobbyist developers to fully-fledged research teams - has the opportunity to play with it, tweak it and constantly improve it. As open source projects such as OpenStack gain momentum and the rate of innovation speeds up thanks to a growing global networks of experts, products are developed at an incredible pace.

It's completely customizable

One of the greatest advantages of open source initiatives is that as long as the vendor makes the source code publicly available, users have free reign to do whatever they want with it.

Organizations are not bound by licensing and restrictions - they can tweak the code in whichever way they wish, tailoring it to their unique requirements and exploring new opportunities, and sharing this knowledge with others for further development.

It is unlimited in scope

Traditionally, collaborative efforts were limited by restrictions such as geographical boundaries. People needed to be in the same physical proximity to work on projects, greatly limiting their scope.

Open source projects, and those involving software in particular, are not bound by such confines. All that is needed to enable people from around the world to start collaborating is the source code and an online forum to broadcast the code.

It can make the world a better place

As some of the most famous open source projects to date have shown, these initiatives can indeed help improve the world.

In a recent example that highlights how open source philosophies are being adopted across major industries, electric car manufacturer Tesla made the bold step of making its patents available for others (including its competitors) to use "in good faith." The opportunity for the world to analyze and improve Tesla's technology can be a massive boost for the automotive industry - and the environment, as broader adoption of electric vehicles aims to slash emissions.

The betterment of the world relies on innovation, and collaboration is one of the key ingredients to accomplish this goal. Open source methodologies, which have collaboration at their core, are well-poised to be an integral part of this universal push for innovation.

What are your thoughts on this?

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