Irving Wladawsky-Berger – IBM’s VP of Technical Strategy and Innovation (and one of the few “must-read” IBM employee blogs that I’m aware of) has a good post up summarizing Eric von Hippel’s work on Democratizing Innovation. Eric was my doctoral advisor at MIT (I didn’t finish) and has built 30 years of really important academic research (and a worldwide research community) on the idea he stated around 1978 that “innovation comes from users, not manufacturers.” Today we might say something like “yeah – uh huh”, but in 1978 this was a radical thought.
There was plenty of discussion about “users” and the importance of them – especially in the product development cycle – at Gnomedex last week. Wladawsky-Berger does a nice job condensing von Hippel’s ideas down into a few paragraphs. Eric’s latest book – Democratizing Innovation – is full of examples that build out his framework (and is available as a free PDF and licensed under a Creative Commons License.)
As a wise man once said to me when I was a young student, “wouldn’t manufacturers be irrelevant without users?”