Innovation is rapidly becoming democratised. 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 user-centred innovation system. 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 democratised 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 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 democratised user-centred innovation system, says von Hippel, is well worth striving for. An electronic version of this book is available under a Creative Commons license.
This is a carefully written, well-argued book that synthesizes a lot of good original research on the user-centered model of innovation. It makes a significant contribution to our general understanding of the innovation process in an area where our knowledge is especially thin. A thought-provoking and extremely valuable book. - Carliss Y. Baldwin, Harvard Business School, coauthor of Design Rules: The Power of Modularity"
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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.