Democratizing Innovation - Eric von Hippel (2005)
About the Lecture
If you have ever come up with a work-around or improvement for a balky product only to find that it performs better than the original, you are not alone. Eric von Hippel proffers multiple examples where an ordinary user, frustrated or even desperate, solves a problem through innovation. His research found innovative users playing with all manner of product: mountain bikes, library IT systems, agricultural irrigation, and scientific instruments. Often, manufacturers keep at arm’s length from these inventions. He describes the Lego company “standing like a deer in headlights” when technologically adept adults discovered they could design their own sophisticated Lego robots. User communities arise, freely communicate with each other, advance ideas and sometimes even “drive the manufacturer out of product design,” according to von Hippel. This widely distributed inventing bug is a good trend, believes von Hippel, because users “tend to make things that are functionally novel.” Not only is it “freeing for individuals” but it also creates a “free commons” of product ideas, parallel to the more restrictive world of intellectual property governed by less creative manufacturers.
ERIC VON HIPPEL SM ‘68
Professor of Management and Head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group, MIT Sloan School of Management
von Hippel researches the nature and economics of distributed and open innovation. Prior to his professorship at Sloan, he was the Sir Walter Scott Distinguished Professor at the Australian Graduate School of Management, and a Fellow at the Canadian Institute of Advanced Research. He was a co-founder of the MIT Entrepreneurship Program, and served as a consultant for McKinsey and Company. He was also a co-founder and manager of R&D for Graphic Sciences, Inc.
von Hippel received his B.A. from Harvard College, his S.M. from MIT, and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University.