Users as innovators

Posted on October 26, 2009  /  0 Comments

LIRNEasia has been, for some time, documenting how users at the Bottom of the Pyramid are innovating with ICTs. This story has the views of Eric von Hippel, the guru of the “users and innovators” school on how Twitter has mobilized users as innovators.

In the next several weeks, Twitter users will discover two new features, Lists and Retweets, that had the same user-generated beginnings.

“Twitter’s smart enough, or lucky enough, to say, ‘Gee, let’s not try to compete with our users in designing this stuff, let’s outsource design to them,’ ” said Eric von Hippel, head of the innovation and entrepreneurship group at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. and author of the book “Democratizing Innovation.”

Economists have long thought that producers — the people making products and running companies — are naturally the ones coming up with new ideas, Professor von Hippel said. In fact, he said, consumers often come up with ideas for products, and companies wait on the sidelines to see if they have mass appeal.

Technology companies have been the most active in relying on others to innovate for them. This is in large part because the Internet lets people exchange ideas easily and rapidly with large groups, and computing tools let people design new products cheaply.

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