Chapter 1: Introduction
This book is concerned with what I shall call common innovation. This is not a term in general use, but I think it should be, because the concept deserves far more attention from economists and others who study the impact of innovation on the economy. Common innovation is carried out by ‘the common man and woman’ for their own benefit. It takes place quite outside the domain of business, the professions or government. It could, indeed, be described as non-business innovation, to emphasise its essential difference from business innovation. It could also be called vernacular, as it is not intended for commercial use,2 but for the benefit of the innovators and their community. As such, the concept of common innovation is somewhat unfamiliar to the academic discipline of economics. For the most part, economists who study innovation actually study business innovation. And, even more so, common innovation is distinctly ‘foreign’ to business itself – to the extent that some in business, at least, deny there is any such thing as common innovation. Business innovation and common innovation are fundamentally different. The first is a professional activity carried out by specialists in the business sector. It is often expensive because it involves making unusual, and sometimes exceptional, advances. By contrast, common innovation is nonprofessional and is carried out by ‘the common man and woman’ outside business. It often involves quite ordinary and unexceptional activity.