Sunday, October 01, 2006

Innovation methods

Suddently everyone is talking about innovations. At the work we are not doing research or inventions anymore, we are innovating. We even hired Innovation Director to coordinate (?) our innovativeness. But what do we actually mean when we talk about innovations.

(A bit) funny thing is that today's hottest innovation theories have been first introduced years ago. Everett Roger published his book Diffusion of Innovations in ´62 and Eric von Hippel Lead Users: A Source of Novel Product Concepts at the Management Science Journal in '86. Lately Geffrey Moore and Henry Chesbrough has provided new terms to the discussion: crossing the chasm and open innovation. Chesbrough's book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology (2003) focuses on similar issues where we (at the work) are aiming at: buy or license processes or inventions (i.e. patents) from other companies (read: us!). Adina Levin's blog discusses about the differences between crossing the chasm and lead users theories.

Today user innovations and community innovations are at the core of innovation theories and ways of putting theories into practise. For example open source, (game) modding and demo programs (patch, plug-ins) all highlight the users' role in software development. Also hobbyist and enthusiasts have their motivation and will to modify content. Not to mention tuning which has become very topical through tv-programs such as Pimp My Ride.

Whereas open innovation focuses more on companies or institutes and their ways of opening their innovation processes, lead users as the 'extreme edge can tell you exactly what they want to solve their critical need.' Web2.0 and social media trends bring up the role of users in a new way. Web2.0 promote ideas put up at von Hippel's lead user theories: the people (lead users) have the deepest understanding of needs underlying emerging products and services. Often they make their own prototypes, using what resources are available to them, to address their own critical needs. One thing that lead users have in common is that they enjoy sharing their insights. They're aware of the potential benefits of the company's work and look forward to advancing a cause.

So what? (For example) web2.0 (and game) developers might be somewhat aware of the potential users have to offer but they do not necessary understand the ways and methods to utilize lead users (or users in general) in their innovation/product develoment. I have been discussing with web2.0 service developers and listening to their ideas of 'If you make a web service they will come'. Some companies even arrange user tests two months before publishing the product. Eh -- why? There are not that many issues to improve anymore. Users tests should be done iteratively and from the start of the process! For developers I sugget to spend some moments with von Hippel, Chesbrough or Roger Moore ;) books and get inspired!

Sources / more resources:
Lead users take innovation to the extreme
Wikipedia: Lead User
Wikipedia: Diffusion of Innovation
Joseph Schumpeter
Outside In Innovation


Pia said...

Oon jo toukokuusta asti toivonu, että joku muukin innostuis päivittään tota lead user -sivua. Osallistutko talkoisiin? :)

SonjaK said...

Ok, tietty. Olenkin viime aikoina inspiroitunut myös wikeilystä :)