Demand, Users and Innovation
Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh
Chapter 11: How innovative are users? A critique of learning-by-doing and -using
Remco Hoogma and Johan Schot1 INTRODUCTION A number of recent studies have shown the importance of user involvement for innovation. Nowadays, this is received wisdom, accepted widely in economic innovation studies and sociology and history of technology. These studies have shown that in the process of technology introduction users are not passive recipients who change their behaviour and identity when called upon, but they often develop new functions for technologies, solve unforeseen problems and propose or develop innovative solutions, even to the extent that they design a completely new product. These user-produced solutions are in many cases more innovative (in the sense that they differ more from existing solutions) than technologies developed by producers. The productive character of user involvement explains why producers of new technologies who are closely tied in to users have a greater innovative success rate. (Von Hippel 1976, 1988; Rosenberg 1982; Lundvall 1988; Slaughter 1993; Leonard 1998). Our purpose is not so much to argue that user involvement is necessary for innovation, but to look at sources of innovativeness of users. When and how do users become innovative? Several authors, such as Rosenberg and Habermeier, have argued that actual use is a necessary source to generate knowledge required to improve a product. Such knowledge cannot be generated in any other way, because interactions between products and their use environments are too complex to be predicted. Designers can invest in fault anticipation strategies (such as simulation, using analytical procedures, and incorporation of already successful ﬁeld-tested subsystems in...
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