The OpenBusiness blog posted an interview with Eric von Hippel, author of Democratizing Innovation. They discussed how corporations are making use of new user-centered innovation to improve the design and manufacturing of new products and services. In the interview, von Hippel describes what the democratization of innovation means for traditional business models and how larger corporations can adopt the practices of smaller ones to get ahead:
OB: In your book you highlight that the modus operandi of businesses is changing and give as an example Open Source development. And even though it seems a great example of democratized innovation the question remains how business models work, if the core product – software – is distributed for free. What will drive innovation in this space?
Eric von Hippel: I think in the first place motivations are non-commercial. Users who innovate do so basically because they have a need that they cannot fill with available commercial products. Their major reward is the in-house use of what they have developed and recognition by their peers. Innovators in the open-source field gain reputation by publicly reporting their innovations. Its true the core product is free, but its wrong to assume that this means there is no economic activity. Just look at the case of the Apache server, which is used by major corporations. They pay developers to participate in the process, because they benefit from the product. To put it differently: economic activity moves from the Microsoft layer – controlling every step in the development and distribution process in a closed way – to the Open Source or Linux layer. It is still economic activity, just the business models are different.
The entire interview can be read here.