Democratizing Innovation

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MIT Press, 2005 - Business & Economics - 204 pages
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Innovation is rapidly becoming democratized. Users, aided by improvements in computer and communications technology, increasingly can develop their own new products and services. These innovating users—both individuals and firms—often freely share their innovations with others, creating user-innovation communities and a rich intellectual commons. In Democratizing Innovation, Eric von Hippel looks closely at this emerging system of user-centered innovation. He explains why and when users find it profitable to develop new products and services for themselves, and why it often pays users to reveal their innovations freely for the use of all.

The trend toward democratized innovation can be seen in software and information products—most notably in the free and open-source software movement—but also in physical products. Von Hippel's many examples of user innovation in action range from surgical equipment to surfboards to software security features. He shows that product and service development is concentrated among "lead users," who are ahead on marketplace trends and whose innovations are often commercially attractive.

Von Hippel argues that manufacturers should redesign their innovation processes and that they should systematically seek out innovations developed by users. He points to businesses—the custom semiconductor industry is one example—that have learned to assist user-innovators by providing them with toolkits for developing new products. User innovation has a positive impact on social welfare, and von Hippel proposes that government policies, including R&D subsidies and tax credits, should be realigned to eliminate biases against it. The goal of a democratized user-centered innovation system, says von Hippel, is well worth striving for. An electronic version of this book is available under a Creative Commons license.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - hennis - LibraryThing

great book about the changing and increasingly collaborative nature of innovation. book shows overview of tools and criteria for developers and manufacturers to enable end-users to co-develop products and services. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - cued100prof - LibraryThing

A French chef whose restaurant is given an extra “star” in the famed Michelin Guide (on a scale of 1 to 5) can expect a flurry of new patrons, prestige and profits in the coming year. Similarly ... Read full review


Development of Products by Lead Users 19
Why Many Users Want Custom Products 33
Users InnovateorBuy Decisions 45
Users LowCost Innovation Niches 63
Why Users Often Freely Reveal Their Innovations 77
Innovation Communities 93
Adapting Policy to User Innovation 107
Democratizing Innovation 121
Searching for Lead User Innovations
Toolkits for User Innovation and Custom
Linking User Innovation to Other Phenomena
Bibliography 183

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About the author (2005)

Eric von Hippel is Professor of Management of Innovation and Head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of The Sources of Innovation.

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