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Putting People First

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Search results for 'hippel'
29 January 2007

Harvard Business Review features user-centered innovation as breakthrough idea for 2007

Harvard_shieldbusiness_1
The Harvard Business Review has published its annual list of Breakthrough Ideas for 2007, written out in “twenty essays that will satisfy our demanding readers’ appetite for provocative and important new ideas”.

Eric von Hippel wrote the entry entitled “An Emerging Hotbed of User-Centered Innovation“.

Eric von Hippel is the T Wilson Professor of Innovation Management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the scientific director of the Danish User-Centered Innovation Lab in Copenhagen. He is the author of Democratizing Innovation (MIT Press, 2005).

“In an array of industries, producer-centered innovation is being eclipsed by user-centered innovation—the dreaming up, development, prototyping, and even production of new products by consumers. These users aren’t just voicing their needs to companies that are willing to listen; they’re inventing and often building what they want.”

“[...] This process of users’ coming up with products is increasingly well documented, and some companies, at least, are actively trying to take advantage of it. But what about governments?”

“[...] Government support has typically come in the form of R&D grants for scientific researchers and R&D tax credits for manufacturers. This focus on technology push has not attracted much controversy. But recent research shows that the 70% to 80% of new product development that fails does so not for lack of advanced technology but because of a failure to understand users’ needs. The emergence of user-centered innovation clearly shows that this near-exclusive focus on technological advance is misplaced.”

“Denmark is taking this sea change in the nature of innovation to heart. In 2005, the Danish government became the first in the world to establish as a national priority, in the words of a government policy statement, ‘strengthening user-centered innovation.’”

“By championing a new innovation paradigm, the Danish government is encouraging numerous methodological flowers to bloom—from programs that improve manufacturers’ understanding of users’ needs (through ethnographic research, for example) to techniques for identifying user-developed innovations that manufacturers can produce.”

Duncan J. Watts wrote another thought-provoking essay, “The Accidental Influentials,” in which he argues that “social epidemics” are not in large part driven by the actions of a tiny minority of special individuals, as is the dominant belief.

“We studied the dynamics of social contagion by conducting thousands of computer simulations of populations, manipulating a number of variables relating to people’s ability to influence others and their tendency to be influenced.”

“Our work shows that the principal requirement for what we call “global cascades”—the widespread propagation of influence through networks—is the presence not of a few influentials but, rather, of a critical mass of easily influenced people, each of whom adopts, say, a look or a brand after being exposed to a single adopting neighbor. Regardless of how influential an individual is locally, he or she can exert global influence only if this critical mass is available to propagate a chain reaction.”

Understanding that trends in public opinion are driven not by a few influentials influencing everyone else but by many easily influenced people influencing one another should change how companies incorporate social influence into their marketing campaigns. Because the ultimate impact of any individual—highly influential or not—depends on decisions made by people one, two, or more steps away from her or him, word-of-mouth marketing strategies shouldn’t focus on finding supposed influentials. Rather, marketing dollars might better be directed toward helping large numbers of ordinary people—possibly with Web-based social networking tools—to reach and influence others just like them.”

Duncan J. Watts is a professor of sociology at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (Norton, 2003)

(via Bruno Giussani’s Lunch over IP)

27 October 2006

Third generation Living Labs: the quest for user-centred mobile services

Living Labs
Faced with a context of a vast and still growing supply of relatively cheap and effective information and communications technology (ICT) and stimulated demand for new solutions to achieve mobility, even seamless mobility, Prof Jan Annerstedt and Sascha Haselmayer raise the issue of understanding user needs and of feeding that understanding into applications:

  • “How to foster – at the very early stages of the product cycle – user-oriented or user-centred mobile applications for business firms and for public agencies, for professionals as well as for ordinary citizens?”
  • “How to face the quest for novelty among ICT applications with regard to actual user needs, when many current applications in a world of increased mobility have emerged unexpectedly from the twists and turns of invention as digital technology was combined with other technology, often driven by advanced user-demands for new mobile applications?”

Annerstedt (a professor at the Department of International Economics and Management, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, where he holds the UNESCO Chair in Communication) and Haselmayer (co-founder of Interlace-Invent, a research-based consultancy firm in Copenhagen with operations across Europe, and an expert in Knowledge and Innovation intensive Urbanism) wrote a paper addressing these questions, based on their analytical insights and practical experiences while engaged in companies and city regions that appear to be more prominent than others in developing specialized software and other technology in support of mobility.

They focus specifically on the so-called “Living Labs”, which they see as “one of the most vitalizing modes of fostering user-led or user-centric innovations”.

“A Living Lab is an open innovation space, which recognizes the design and development roles of users or user communities even in the early phases of an innovation process. A Living Lab contains a set of facilitating instruments to sustain effective interactions between the producers and users.”

The authors are most interested in the third generation of Living Labs that cover an entire city area which operates as “a full-scale urban laboratory and proving ground for prototyping and testing new technology application and new methods of generating and fostering innovation processes in real time”, in other words as von Hippel-inspired local, user-driven innovation environments.

Currently, Living Labs initiatives have been taken by groups of stakeholders in cities like Almere (the Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), Copenhagen (Denmark), Lund-Malmö (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), London (United Kingdom), Mataro (Spain), San Cugat (Spain), Sophia-Antipolis (France), Stockholm (Sweden), Tallinn (Estonia), Torino (Italy), Bergslagen/Grythyttan (Sweden), and Kalmar/Västervik (Sweden).

The paper was presented at eChallenges 2006, Barcelona on 26 October 2006 and can now be downloaded from the Living Labs blog.

Read full paper

9 August 2006

How kayak users built a new industry [HBS Working Knowledge]

Rodeo kayaking
Harvard Business School professor Carliss Baldwin and her colleagues Christoph Hienerth and Eric von Hippel were drawn to the sport of rodeo kayaking, but not to get their feet wet. Instead, they realised that both the sport and industry of rodeo kayaking was a wonderful example of how “user innovations” evolve and eventually become commercial products. Hienerth is a professor at Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, while von Hippel is a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management.

User innovations occur when customers of a product improve on that product with their own designs. In rodeo kayaking, the early participants built specialized kayaks from fiberglass using hand lay-up techniques; these crafts were especially nimble in rough water. In the early 1970s, other kayakers began asking these “user innovators” to create equipment for them—and the rodeo kayaking industry was born. Since then, rodeo kayaks have gone through several major design iterations, and the sport has become a $100 million business.

Baldwin and her fellow researchers wanted to better understand this path from user innovation to commercial product. What role do user communities play in this process? Are “user-manufacturers” —users who turn their improvements into commercial products—usually industry leaders? How competitive are existing, well-capitalized companies when they compete against user-manufacturers? Although there have been a number of studies on user innovation, little if any work has been done on the commercialization of user innovations, the authors believe.

The research was recently published in the working paper How User Innovations Become Commercial Products: A Theoretical Investigation and Case Study (pdf, 2.98 mb, 29 pages). The authors believe that their research “provides a first opportunity for both user-manufacturers and established manufacturers to think systematically about the dynamics of these types of markets, and to plan their business strategies accordingly.”

In an interview in Harvard Busines School’s Working Knowledge, Baldwin discusses the research and its implications for entrepreneurs who would like to become their own user innovators.

(via IdeaPort)

13 July 2006

Crowdsourcing: consumers as creators [Business Week]

Threadless T-shirt
Writer Paul Boutin writes in Business Week about a “new trend [that] allows customers to help design the products they buy” and analyses a paper on the topic of crowdsourced product design, written by Susumu Ogawa, a professor of marketing at Kobe University in Tokyo, and Frank Piller, a professor at TUM Business School in Munich, and recently published in MIT’s Sloan Management Review.

“Crowdsourcing is the unofficial (but catchy) name of an IT-enabled business trend in which companies get unpaid or low-paid amateurs to design products, create content, even tackle corporate R&D problems in their spare time.”

“Crowdsourcing is a subset of what Eric von Hippel calls ‘user-centered innovation,’ in which manufacturers rely on customers not just to define their needs, but to define the products or enhancements to meet them. But unlike the bottom-up, ad-hoc communities that develop open-source software or better windsurfing gear, crowdsourced work is managed and owned by a single company that sells the results.”

“To paraphrase von Hippel, it relies on would-be customers’ willingness to hand over their ideas to the company, either cheaply or for free, in order to see them go into production.”

Read full story

18 June 2006

To charge up customers, put customers in charge [The New York Times]

Customer in charge - illustration by James O'Brian
William C. Taylor, co-author of “Mavericks at Work” has just published a feature on mass customisation in the New York Times business section.

It features examples of John Fluevog Shoes, Jones Soda and Threadless and quotes MIT’s Eric von Hippel:

“Eric von Hippel, head of the innovation and entrepreneurship group at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has studied the effects of ‘lead-user innovation’ in industries from extreme-sports gear to medical equipment.”

“In a time of ever more talented technology enthusiasts, hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers, all connected by Internet-enabled communication, he says, the most intensely engaged users of a product often find new ways to enhance it long before its manufacturer does. Thus, he argues, companies that aspire to stand out in fast-moving markets would be wise to invite their smartest users into the product design process.”

“‘It’s getting cheaper and cheaper for users to innovate on their own,’ Professor von Hippel said. ‘This is not traditional market research — asking customers what they want. This is identifying what your most advanced users are already doing and understanding what their innovations mean for the future of your business.’”

Read full story (permanent link)

22 May 2006

MIT is to make Denmark world champion in user driven innovation

Copenhagen Business School logo
Eric von Hippel, professor at Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology, is to help Danish companies to utilise their customers’ innovative potential in the creation of new user directed products.

This will take place through the pilot project Danish User-Centered Innovation Lab, where he will take the first small step on the long road towards the realisation of the Danish government’s ambitious objective in collaboration with a group of researchers at Copenhagen Business School and a handful of Danish companies. The objective is to make Denmark a world champion in user-driven innovation.

Read full story

15 May 2006

Firms turn R&D on its head, looking outside for ideas [Boston Globe]

Lego Mindstorms
The Boston Globe reports on the radical changes taking place in product and service innovation.

Citing the forthcoming book Outside Innovation by Patricia B. Seybold, a Boston high-tech consultant, the article highlights how “companies are shaking up their methods of bringing products and services to market. Among the outside parties they’re reaching out to: their own customers.”

“Through a process known as ”outside innovation,” companies are deputizing customers to help design new offerings, writes Seybold in her book.”

“Seybold, drawing on studies by Eric von Hippel, professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said forward-thinking businesses are setting up online forums to identify ‘lead customers’, those who are early adopters and passionate users of their products, and work with them to drive innovation.”

The article also quotes Navi Radjou, vice president at Forrester Research in Cambridge, whose new report last month Transforming R&D Culture revealed how companies themselves say that “their inflexible R&D processes weren’t keeping up with evolving customer needs”, and that “the insular mindset of research and development departments” are becoming “a barrier to innovation”.

Read full story

8 May 2006

Design as play

Ulla-Maaria Mutanen
According to modern western thinking, work and play represent two opposing concepts, writes Ulla-Maaria Mutanen in her blog “Hobbyprincess”.

Play is associated with enjoyment, irrationality, spontaneity, experimentation and fun, whereas work is serious, rational, economical, normal and entirely predictable. The juxtaposition of work and play is partly explained by the Protestant work ethic, which holds work to be a virtue and a model of the good life. According to this philosophy, sensible and hard work could not be, and was not allowed to be fun, entertaining or anything that would promote disobedience, enjoyment and smugness, all of which were thought to be ruinous to true Christian belief.

The juxtaposing of work and play may also originate from the view that play is a child’s activity. Especially within the fields of psychology and education, play among children and animals is studied as a phenomenon connected to biological and cultural development.

Removing play from the scope of socially significant work and adult activities has led to its trivialisation. Play has no place in the professional world or the social innovation system.

In the light of current trends, however, it looks like the role of play in work, especially in design and research work, will have to be re-evaluated. One reason for this can be found in the ongoing innovation crisis within established institutions and businesses. Organisations trimmed to maximise their economic performance no longer represent the kind of environment in which the best new ideas and innovations can develop.

Instead, scholars such as Eric von Hippel and Henry Chesbrough have highlighted how the latest applications are being developed in the fringes, among communities of users, hobbyists and amateur developers.

Read full story (to be published as an article in the Finnish Design Yearbook 2006)

3 March 2006

User-led innovation projects at BBC

Bbc_backstage
In her Outside Innovation blog, best-selling author and management consultant Patty Seybold engages MIT professor Eric von Hippel (author of Democratizing Innovation) in a lively debate about lead users and lead customers.

In a response Matt Locke, Head of Creative Research and Development of BBC New Media, reports on the user-led innovation projects at the BBC:

“You might be interested in the open innovation projects we’re developing at BBC New Media in the UK. I’ve long been a fan of Eric Von Hippel’s ideas on user innovation, and we launched our own ‘toolkit’ environment last May – http://backstage.bbc.co.uk

Backstage provides RSS feeds of BBC news, weather and other content, and encourages lead-users to ‘build your stuff with our stuff’. The resulting ideas and prototypes are hosted on users sites, but linked to from the backstage site. We’ve see a huge number of prototypes generated by this community, and we’re starting to go out to the developers and commission some of the prototypes into full services. We’re also experimenting with design challenges on the site (e.g. a recent competition to ‘hack the tv schedule’).

The main driver for launching backstage was the recognition that users were hacking their own services using our content anyway, and that we should embrace this and provide the tools to make it easier, rather than rty and stop it. We’re also developing other open innovation projects to increase the number of ideas we get from outside the BBC. The second of these – Innovation Labs – is aimed at independent New Media companies in the UK, and we’re just about to go into 3 weeks of rapid prototyping with teams selected through this process. The innovation Labs site is at http://open.bbc.co.uk/labs“.

11 November 2005

Fortune’s Business Innovation blog

 
Business Innovation 2005 is the name of the weblog that accompanies this year’s Fortune Innovation Forum, which will be held November 30-December 1 in New York City.

Inspired by the event’s comprehensive lineup of discussion topics and speakers (including Chris Bangle and Eric Von Hippel, already featured in this blog), the weblog showcases interesting interviews, case studies and commentary on the theme of “business innovation”.

Each week it showcases various factors impacting innovation – competition, customer experience, intellectual property and design.

I am proud to say that Putting People First also made it a few times already (here and here) to the Business Innovation 2005 blog. Thanks, Dominic.

24 July 2005

Harvard articles on the user-centred approach

Harvard_shieldbusiness
Harvard Business School Publishing has some articles available as (paying) downloads describing how experience design and the user-centred approach can lead to innovation.

Let the Users Take the Lead – May 15, 2005
Interview with Eric von Hippel, the head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group and a professor of management and innovation entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Let the Customer Make the Case - March 15, 2005
Collecting and analysing the stories behind purchases can provide deep and invaluable insights into jobs-to-be-done, much more so than traditional surveys or focus group

Harnessing the Power of the Customer – March 1, 2004
Organisations that can effectively harness the burgeoning power of the consumer to help shape their own products and services, argue C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy, authors of The Future of Competition, are the ones that will dominate.

Making Routine Customer Experiences Fun – October 1, 2003
For certain service businesses, the addition of fun can be an important differentiator. The authors present three case studies taken from industries not known for fun–furniture retailing, consumer banking, and the grocery business–to show how it can be turned to profitable advantage.

The New Frontier of Experience Innovation – July 1, 2003
The intent of experience innovation is not to improve a product or service, per se, but to enable the co-creation of an environment in which personalised, evolvable experiences are the goal, and products and services are a means to that end.