Innovation driven by extreme user communities

According to MIT Professor Eric von Hippel’s lecture, Democratizing Innovation, manufacturers traditionally look to the center of the market to drive innovation; that is, with their penetrative questions to and analysis of this market, manufacturers think they can discern what to do in terms of innovative product development initiatives that meet consumers’ needs. What Professor von Hippel actually found is that innovation does not come from the center of the market, it comes from an extreme market fringe driven by localized users and early adopter user communities pushing the limits of an original device or prototype. As an example of this, about 22 minutes into the video, von Hippel discusses how these types of communities quickly drove up sales of Lego’s Mindstorm product, while morphing Lego’s original concepts of the product. And about 28 minutes into the video, von Hippel goes into how user groups drove innovative design in the kite surfing market while putting their design innovations under a creative commons licensing scheme which hobbled manufacturers’ attempts to exploit these innovations. This video runs a little over one hour.

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