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How User Innovations Become Commercial Products: A Theoretical Investigation and Case Study

31 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2006  

Christoph Hienerth

Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration

Eric A. von Hippel

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

Carliss Y. Baldwin

Harvard Business School, Finance Unit

Date Written: January 2006

Abstract

In this paper we model the pathways commonly traversed as user innovations are transformed into commercial products. First, one or more users recognize a new set of design possibilities and begin to innovate. They then join into communities, motivated by the increased efficiency of collective innovation. User-manufacturers then emerge, using high variable cost/low-capital production methods. Finally, as user innovation slows, the market stabilizes enough for high-capital, low variable cost manufacturing to enter. We test the model against the history of the rodeo kayak industry and find it supported. We discuss implications for "dominant design" theory and for innovation practice.

Keywords: user innovations, user-manufacturers

Suggested Citation

Hienerth, Christoph and von Hippel, Eric A. and Baldwin, Carliss Y., How User Innovations Become Commercial Products: A Theoretical Investigation and Case Study (January 2006). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4572-06; HBS Finance Working Paper No. 876967; Harvard NOM Working Paper No. 06-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=876967 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.876967

Christoph Hienerth

Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration ( email )

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, Wien 1020
Austria
+43 1 31336-4472 (Phone)
+43 1 31336-769 (Fax)

Eric Von Hippel (Contact Author)

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

E62-455
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-7155 (Phone)
617-253-2660 (Fax)

Carliss Y. Baldwin

Harvard Business School, Finance Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

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