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July 03, 2006


Jianming Xu

User-centered innovation processes become popular and important in industry.Lead user's demands mostly small and uncertain, sometimes capricious.For manufacturers,it's a challenge to support these users with fast response. Agility of development and good quality of output are key issues for success.

John Bell

I love this very simple dispassionate (business school) description about user-driven innovation. There is a flip side to embracing the notion of co-creation (facilitating people to innovate on top of your platform)and that is the creation of "invested" users - those most likely to be passionate about the product or service offered. Look at thinkwiki.org - a group of passionate ThinkPad users who have taken it upon themselves to port Linux to the ThinkPad. I am guessing that many of them are even more passionate ThinkPad users now that they are invested, so-to-speak.

Carl Howe

Great commentary on an important idea, Irving. I believe that this concept of lead users innovating to solve their own problems is in fact one of the driving forces behind open source software and hardware today. One of the challenges we all face in fostering this trend is the increasingly restrictive intellectual property and copyright law in the US. That body of law is still mired in the past, where innovation only belongs to entitites designed to restrict their use rather than share them.

Terrific food for thought; I look forward to more of your writing.


Paul McNamara

Iving, good article. I tend to think of lead user adoption as being similar to the p-wave of an earthquake. The p-wave is the fast moving shock wave that precedes the big shaking that people usually associate with an earthquake. Companies that are set up to detect technology p-waves (waves of lead user adoption) are in a better position to anticipate big trends. I've written about this topic at charterstreet.com

Steve Flowers

The phenomenon of user innovation has been with us for a long time - think custom car modders - and this kind of activity has long been on the edge of firm R&D. The democratization of innovation that Von Hippel has identified is perhaps most easily observed within IT-intensive industries, is an important and growing. But the picture is bit more complex and there are many more subtleties within this shift that remain to be explored. For example, this process of democratization will (in certain industries) result in a fundamentally different relationship between supplier and user. This will have implications for product/service architectures, R&D processes, business models, IP regimes, and so on. The innovation models that firms and policy makers employ will also need to reflect this shift. For example, firms often rely of lead user 'freely revealing' their ideas, enabling them to harvest and commercialise them. As these new models of innovation begin to become mainstream, the system of royalties and IP may need to be extended.
Rather a long post, but as you can probably guess, I've been thinking about this issue rather a lot.

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