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Democratizing Innovation (MIT Press) Paperback – February 17, 2006
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Eric von Hippel has a penchant for identifying important aspects of technological innovation that run contrary to conventional wisdom and to the thrust of conventional scholarship. His work on the important role that users, rather than suppliers, play in the advance of technology casts the process in a new light. This book is an intellectual feast.(Richard R. Nelson, George Blumenthal Professor of International and Public Affairs, Business, and Law, Columbia University)
In a concise 200 pages, von Hippel traces the empirical studies on user innovation, determining that between 10 and 40 percent of users engage in developing or modifying products. These 'lead users' are ahead of the curve and often create improvements that other users will want to share.(Harvard Business School Working Knowledge)
Still, new patterns are emerging in some scattered yet suggestive areas of product design, studied by management expert, Eric von Hippel in Democratizing Innovation. 'Lead users' (the most zealous windsurfers who get new boards first and modify them, the most advanced builders experimenting with new materials like stressed-skin panels) often suggest or even create useful innovations that manufacturers adopt.(San Francisco Chronicle)
The book puts its thesis well, with plenty of examples.(Financial Review (Australia))
The fruits of his labor are nicely summarized in Democratizing Innovation, a useful primer on what he calls 'user-centered innovation.'...Despite its brevity, Democratizing Innovation is a heavyweight book, written with the lightness of touch you might expect from a regular contributor to the journal Management Science. But where innovation comes from and how value gets created are heavy questions for all companies in all industries. No innovation means no value added, and ultimately no profits.(The Financial Times)
This is a book that should be required reading for every person in every automotive company who is involved in product development, be they marketers or engineers, manufacturers or managers. It is that important.(Automotive Design and Production)
von Hippel has brought an important issue to the fore.(CIO Insight)
Von Hippel presents a persuasive case for the benefits of encouraging lead users to innovate and a truly intriguing look at what they've contributed to the world so far.(BizEd)
[von Hippel's] book looks at why users want customized products, why it is more advantageous for them rather than the manufacturer to make the changes, why they freely share their innovations with other, and the need for government to encourage user innovaton by refining patent and intellectual protection legislation. It's a fascinating, little explored trend that he covers thoroughly. Although his book is written in academic style, it offers lots of examples and provides an understanding of an important innovation in the world of innovation.(Globe and Mail)
[von Hippel] shows that, in fields ranging from surgical instruments and software to kite surfing, customers often come up with new products of new ways of using old ones. Some companies encourage their customers to modify their merchandise. Others, however, do not: when a devoted user of Aibo, Sony's robot dog, wrote applicatons that would allow the Aibo to dance to music, Sony threatened the man with a lawsuit.(James Surowiecki New Yorker)
About the Author
Eric von Hippel, the T. Wilson (1953) Professor of Technological Innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management, is a leading research scholar on the economics and management of free, open, and distributed innovation.
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But instead of stopping at this satisfactorily instructive business philosophy, Eric von Hippel vanishes into inscrutable swaths of higher math, static language, and slow-moving refutation that squanders his great early energy. His wordy later chapters aim to validate his introductory philosophy, replete with immobile prose translations of advanced calculus and protracted business terminology. After persuading me of his thesis, he proceeds to bore me into agreeing with the other side.
Perhaps this book will energize business professors and patent attorneys to amend the received wisdom. But I can't imagine this book being very useful to people who actually manufacture anything or conduct business. Maybe I ought to utilize von Hippel's pro-innovation philosophy to write a book that actual business people and R&D pioneers can apply to their own work. Because this stultifying, immobile discursion will only bore them into submission.
What this book is: A good description as to how the customer/innovator symbiotic relationship propels inovation.
What this book isn't: I just didn't need to be as long as it is. The point could have been made in 2/3s of the length. The repetition made it a far more academic book than the other writing style.
This book is one of those where it is worth reading the first third to half and then the final chapter. It is worth reading, but not every page.
The customer or user has been von Hippel's focus since he coined the terms "customer-active paradigm" of innovation in the 70s; and "Lead Users", "sticky information", and "user toolkits" in the following decades. His early research focused on high-tech B2B firms, but Democratizing provides examples from B2C and C2C as well.
Recommended to anyone who wants to tap into the richest source of product innovation: the user.
I strongly suggest reading it for those interested in what the future will look like. The book pair off with
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything