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 23: Business and the Marketplace

G. M.P. Swann


Some readers will immediately be confused by the inclusion of this chapter. How can we have a chapter on common innovation in business and the marketplace? If common innovation is defined as all innovation except business innovation, then how can there be any common innovation in business or the marketplace? Surely this is a contradiction in terms? In essence, that argument is absolutely right, and once again this means the chapter will be quite a short one. Nonetheless, I believe that there are two types of common innovation that need to be considered in this chapter. One happens ‘within the walls’ of business, but is not officially business innovation. The other happens ‘immediately around’ the outside wall of the business, and is strictly common innovation. I shall give one example of the first type and two of the second type. The first type happens when business organisations give staff some limited discretion to indulge in their own innovative projects during working hours and within the walls of the company. The second type is closer to an informal joint venture between the business producer, the consumers that use the products produced by this business, and/or those who live and work in the local economy where the business operates. EXAMPLES 20 Percent Time Much has been said about 20 percent time schemes. Sometimes these are really at most, 15 or 10 percent time schemes. Some of what has been said is perhaps in the realm of myth, but some is certainly reality. The best known is the one that Google operates – or, some would say, used to operate.

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