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The Sources of Innovation Reprint Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195094220
ISBN-10: 0195094220
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An important and interesting book. Meeting customers' needs through successful innovation is an extremely difficult challenge. Von Hippel provides a powerful method for understanding customers' needs when the mass of potential users may not yet understand their own needs."--Sloan Management Review

"An important study."--Robert J. Samuelson, Newsweek

"Each [of the book's two major studies] opens up new vistas on technical change, and for scholars interested in that topic this is must reading."--Journal of Economic Literature

"A path-breaking study."--Inc.

"This topic is important in modern business and industry, and the results of von Hippel's research could have wide-ranging implications for the way top management perceives the role of research and development....The book can be read by a broad audience--managers, graduate and undergraduate students, and thoughtful general readers."--Choice

"An important reference for future work on the characteristics of process innovation....Von Hippel's argument provides innovation managers with a powerful tool for identifying and addressing the nature of change that is needed within specific organizational structures."--RandD Management

"This book presents the results of pathbreaking research on two important topics. Von Hippel's research on the role of users in industrial invention, and, more generally, on the broader question of the locus of inventive activity in what the French call a filiere has changed the way that scholars of technological advance have looked at those questions. His more recent work, on technology sharing, has brought light to an aspect of technical change that scholars had not seen or understood before. This book will have a significant impact."--Richard R. Nelson, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

"This book should be of widespread use to academic scholars and industrial managers interested in the fundamental processes of industrial innovation in the modern economy."--Edwin Mansfield, Director, Center for Economics and Technology and Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania

"Exciting new perspectives on the sources of innovation. The author's rich technological background and insight allow him to explain fundamental aspects of the innovation process that have been inaccessible to other researchers."--Anne P. Carter, Chair, Department of Economics, Brandeis University

"Von Hippel has made his study accessible to a wide variety of readers interested in better understanding the sources of innovation."--Technology and Culture

About the Author

Eric von Hippel is at Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (September 22, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195094220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195094220
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,390,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was shocked that I am the first person to review this book because, by now, Prof. Eric von Hippel's book is a classic in the field of research into the causes of innovation. One of von Hippel's key arguments in this book -- as well as in subsequent research and publications -- is that a lot of innovation comes from users of products and services. As users find new uses or new needs for products and services, producers often innovate to meet those needs. While that may seem obvious, this book was one of the first works to verify it in a scientific and rigorous way. Much more surprising than the conclusion just presented is how von Hippel found that users themselves often made the modifications or created new products and processes that lead to innovation. This book belongs in the library of anyone interested in innovation: scientists, engineers, economists, and businesspeople.
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Format: Paperback
To those of you who are unfamiliar with Eric von Hippel, here is an introduction: "I am a Professor of Technological Innovation in the MIT Sloan School of Management, and am also a Professor in MIT's Engineering Systems Division. I specialize in research related to the nature and economics of distributed and open innovation. I also develop and teach about practical methods that individuals, open user communities, and firms can apply to improve their product and service development processes."

* * *

I first read this book when it was first published (1988) and recently re-read it while preparing to review more recent books and then interview their authors. Countless books and articles about innovation have appeared during the last 25 years and authors of the best of them duly acknowledge (as they should) their substantial debt to von Hippel. To paraphrase Bernard of Chartres (a 12th century French monk), they stand atop the shoulders of this giant. If anything, the insights provided in The Sources of Innovation are even more relevant and more valuable now than ever before.

Long ago, I realized that the true value of most (if not all) breakthrough innovations is best determined by the nature and extent of the disruptive impact they have on the given status quo. Von Hippel focuses on several specific industries and discusses the data set for each:

o scientific instrument innovations
o semiconductor process innovations
o pultrusion process machinery innovations
o tractor shovel
o engineering plastics
o plastics additives

Major breakthrough innovations have occurred in each of these industries. As von Hippel explains, "Novel ways of categorizing innovators are only interesting if they open the way to a new insight.
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Format: Paperback
I owe this book and his author a host of insights. It helped me to build a solid vocabulary to talk about innovation and inspired me to give a talk about Innovation at work. This research involves a lot of shoe-leather work and solid research. It helps us to answer the questions: Why innovate in the first place, what is innovation, and who are the sources of innovation? It addresses the hot question of breakthrough innovation in the context of Lead-user theory (where theory is not the 'theory' as in string theory but it is backed by solid work in the field.
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This book is worth anyone's time to read. It is thought-provoking and mind-opening, especially in light of the repeated confirmations of the theories put forth in the book since it was published. Professor von Hippel's recent papers apply principles from this book to open-source software, high-performance windsurfing, and other areas. Almost prescient...
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