I've written previously about Eric von Hippel's new book, Democratizing Innovation. Now Virginia Postrel has pulled some juicier quotes for her NY Times column on the book. Professor von Hippel not only has evidence that user-led innovation is more valuable, he also has a concrete suggestion for making it easier to do.
Innovation is rapidly becoming something that most people can and ought to do.
In a study at 3M, he and several colleagues found that product ideas from lead users generated eight times the sales of ideas generated internally - $146 million versus $18 million a year - in part because lead users were more likely to come up with ideas for entire new product lines rather than minor improvements. ...
Tool kits speed innovation by letting users and manufacturers apply their own specific knowledge. With a tool kit, the customer can turn a poorly articulated wish into a well-specified plan.