Why Do User Communities Matter for Strategy?

44 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2019

See all articles by Sonali Shah

Sonali Shah

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Frank Nagle

Harvard Business School

Date Written: June 20, 2019


User communities represent a unique organizing structure for the exchange of ideas and knowledge. They are organizations composed primarily of users working collaboratively, voluntarily, and with minimal oversight to freely and openly develop and exchange knowledge around a common artifact. The prevalence of user communities appears to be on the rise, as evidenced by communities across a variety of fields ranging from software to Legos to sports equipment. In this essay, we discuss how firms can benefit from working with user communities––that is, we discuss the opportunities for firms to leverage user communities as a source of open innovation. We theorize the conditions under which user communities will emerge and function, and discuss the benefits that user communities can provide and the challenges they can create for firms, thereby illustrating the relevance and import of user communities to firms and the strategic management literature.

Suggested Citation

Shah, Sonali and Nagle, Frank, Why Do User Communities Matter for Strategy? (June 20, 2019). Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 19-126, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3407610 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3407610

Sonali Shah

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

Wohlers Hall
1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61822
United States

Frank Nagle (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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