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Technology and the Market

Demand, Users and Innovation

Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh

The interplay between demand from the market, the role of users in shaping that demand, and the way in which these factors influence the innovation process has always been a complex one. This forward thinking book examines this interplay from a technological change perspective. The contributors explore the potential for rapprochement between economics, sociological and other social science disciplines in considering the allocation of resources and the making of decisions about technological change. The papers within this book represent a judicious blend of theory and empirical research and look at a broad range of innovations, markets and technologies in medicine, agricultural and food production, services and IT. Technology and the Market raises the question of the many ‘visible hands’ that are involved in linking technology and the market together.
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Chapter 11: How innovative are users? A critique of learning-by-doing and -using

Remco Hoogma and Johan Schot


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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