My last few posts may have seemed trivial to some readers. After all, who cares whether you see "a tiger in a jungle" or "a jungle with a tiger" or, alternatively, whether there is "a fly in your soup" or "your soup has a fly in it."
Alas, I just stumbled across a wonderful article on consumer-driven innovation that makes the distinction more practical. In the interview, MIT professor Eric von Hippel says this:
For many years it has been very difficult to convince people of the increasing importance of new product and service development by users serving their own needs. Part of the reason is that the ongoing shift from producer to user innovation is also a paradigm shift. User innovation does not fit into the traditional, producer-centered paradigm. Until people understand the new paradigm, even though user innovation is in plain sight, it can be invisible to them.
In short, many companies are spending vast sums of money on research and development–often to little effect. If only they would change their perspective and view the consumer as someone who not only uses their products but who might also have keen insights and suggestions for product improvement, they could tap into a vast pool of impressive — and free — innovation.
This, of course, first requires that they unlearn the idea that their perspective of "who does R & D" is the only perspective with any value.
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