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Democratizing Innovation


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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 The guru of customer-centered innovation blazes new ground in this masterpiece. He shows managers how to get the most out of a world where customers and communities pioneer new ideas and reconfigure what they buy. Other books tell you that co-creating innovations with customers is important -- Von Hippel tells you how to make it happen. -- Philip Anderson, INSEAD Alumni Fund Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Director, International Centre for Entrepreneurship Von Hippel provides us with a Rosetta Stone to innovation in the Internet age! He marshals a wide range of research findings to document and explain the major shift to user-centered innovation that is now well underway. He also shows managers and policymakers the most effective ways to adapt. -- Nikolaus Franke, Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration Democratizing Innovation presents pathbreaking research to explain a major paradigm shift in innovation: users are displacing manufacturers to become the dominant force of innovation in many fields. I strongly recommend this brilliant, well-written book to researchers and managers who are passionate about the nature of successful innovation -- and how to achieve it! -- Georg von Krogh, Director, Institute of Management, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

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.


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.


[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

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