I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Thoughts on community (Part Three-Innovation)

I haven't gotten too far into this yet, but at work we have been talking about communities of innovation. Obviously there is Open Source, and a relatively long history of that. Eric von Hippel of MIT has written extensively about lead users and the fact that innovation stems from where it is needed economically. I've downloaded his most recent book Democratizing Innovation, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

He begins by stating, "Users that innovate can develop exactly what they want, rather than relying on manufacturers to act as their (often very imperfect) agents. Moreover, individual users do not have to develop everything they need on their own: they can benefit from innovations developed and freely shared by others."

Interesting thesis. Especially interesting for those of us who work in user centered innovation, on the belief that by gaining a deep insight into the user experience we (the manufacturers) can create superior solutions. Actually, I think there is room for both. The users can develop exactly what they want, but I would like to continue to believe that our ethnographic insights can lead us to develop what the users didn't realize they wanted or needed.

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