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Open Source Software and the 'Private-Collective' Innovation Model: Issues for Organization Science

Eric A. von Hippel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Georg von Krogh

ETH Zurich

April 30, 2009

MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4739-09

Currently two models of innovation are prevalent in organization science. The "private investment" model assumes returns to the innovator results from private goods and efficient regimes of intellectual property protection. The "collective action" model assumes that under conditions of market failure, innovators collaborate in order to produce a public good. The phenomenon of open source software development shows that users program to solve their own as well as shared technical problems, and freely reveal their innovations without appropriating private returns from selling the software. In this paper we propose that open source software development is an exemplar of a compound model of innovation that contains elements of both the private investment and the collective action models. We describe a new set of research questions this model raises for scholars in organization science. We offer some details regarding the types of data available for open source projects in order to ease access for researchers who are unfamiliar with these, and also offer some advice on conducting empirical studies on open source software development processes.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: Open source software, innovation, incentives, collective action

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Date posted: May 28, 2009 ; Last revised: December 24, 2014

Suggested Citation

von Hippel, Eric A. and von Krogh, Georg, Open Source Software and the 'Private-Collective' Innovation Model: Issues for Organization Science (April 30, 2009). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4739-09. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1410789 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1410789

Contact Information

Eric Von Hippel (Contact Author)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-7155 (Phone)
617-253-2660 (Fax)
Georg Von Krogh
ETH Zurich ( email )
Weinbergstrasse 56/58
Zurich, 8092
+41 44 632 88 50 (Phone)

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