Exam Feedback 2013

Question 1.   It has been argued by Chesbrough that innovations increasingly emerge from “open innovation” rather than from the closed model in which innovations are developed completely within a single firm. Critically discuss the extent to which Apple’s development of the iPhone and iPad represent examples of “open innovation”, and explain why some elements are open and some closed.
Number of students answering this question – 260
Average mark – 53.2%
Standard deviation of marks – 15.9%
Maximum mark – 77
Minimum mark – 0
First class – 15 (6%)
Upper second class – 88 (34%)
Lower second class – 96 (37%)
Third class – 33 (13%)
Fail – 28 (11%)

Feedback Comments

“The overall distribution of marks for this question was very disappointing. The question was asking students to consider whether the Apple iPhone and iPad represent “open innovation”. A lot of the answers at the lower end of the distribution did not define what is meant by the term “open innovation” and dived straight into discussing Apple’s products. You should ALWAYS assume the person marking the exam is a little bit dim and needs to have all the key terms used in an answer explained, otherwise they might unfortunately infer that you are winging it. The question is a classic question which is expecting a strong answer to include both pro and negative points, so rather than argue one-sidedly that they are open or are closed, the strongest answers covered that there are aspects that are “open” (i.e. use of standard phone and radio standards [4G & wifi], partnerships with suppliers of chips and other components…)  but others that are closed (proprietary operating system). Many students developed interesting arguments around the App Store, which is open in that it allows anyone to develop innovative and/or banal apps, but closed because Apple control the store and the apps will only run on Apple equipment, which strong answers compared to the more open Android ecosystem.

It was clear from the stronger answers that a large number of students know a surprisingly large number of facts about Apple, most of which were true, but the strongest answers were able to incorporate this knowledge into an argument about the strengths and weaknesses of Apple’s part-open/part-closed model.

Unrelated to content, a large number of answers suffered form very poor structure. The ideal in an exam is that the answer you write will look as much like an essay that you have spent several days lovingly slaving over; it should start with an introduction that flags up the overall structure, it then describes, it then discusses, ideally making some reference to concepts in articles, and finally it has a short conclusion.  Too many of the weak answers read like an excerpt from Steve Jobs autobiography rewritten by James Joyce: a stream of consciousness with no introduction, no conclusion and jumping around from topic to topic. When you approach an exam question imagine the poor soul who is going to have to read 260 answers to this question back-to-back. Be interesting, but most of all be clear. It is better to write less to a clear structure than write more that does not have a thread of an argument.”