Common Innovation
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Common Innovation

How We Create the Wealth of Nations

G. M.P. Swann

Common innovation is the contribution of ordinary people to innovation and the wealth of nations. Innovation and wealth creation are not merely the monopoly of business. While Schumpeter described business innovation as a, ‘perennial gale of creative destruction’, common innovation is more a, ‘gentle and benign breeze’. This book analyses some illustrations of the destructive side of business innovation, and provides numerous examples of the ‘benign breeze’ of common innovation. It builds on the pioneering work of von Hippel, but takes that a step further. In common innovation, the ordinary citizen is centre stage and business can be quite peripheral
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Chapter 22: Health

G. M.P. Swann


I have included health as a category in the analytical framework of Chapter 6, but it is arguably a little different from the others. Common innovation can influence health directly, or can exploit other categories to enhance health. But common innovation linkages from health to other categories seem to be rather limited. True, without health, many human activities would be adversely affected: so, in a way, poor health acts as a constraint on our other categories. But apart from that, I have little to add and, for that reason, this chapter is quite short. EXAMPLES1 Self-monitoring of Blood Pressure While most of us depend on professional medical advice to deal with some of the health episodes that beset us, many make use of a variety of common innovations to take day-to-day care of their health. At the simplest level, this includes conventional wisdom about a sensible diet, good exercise and avoidance of unhealthy consumption. But common innovation has also found its way into areas where, in the past, we were dependent on professional medical advice. One example is the home-use of blood pressure monitors and self-monitoring of blood pressure.2 Now, obviously, this is not all pure common innovation, for it depends on the availability of readily available and cheap electronic blood pressure monitors – and that is business innovation. But given these, the enlightened end-user can make a valuable contribution to the management and diagnosis of hypertension. The common innovation here entails the frequent and intelligent use of this equipment to diagnose under what conditions the individual’s blood pressure is raised and which strategies work best to reduce it.

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