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Economics of Product Development by Users: The Impact of "Sticky" Local Information

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  • Eric von Hippel

    (Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139)

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    Abstract

    Those who solve more of a given type of problem tend to get better at it---which suggests that problems of any given type should be brought to specialists for a solution. However, in this paper we argue that agency-related costs and information transfer costs ("sticky" local information) will tend drive the locus of problem-solving in the opposite direction---away from problem-solving by specialist suppliers, and towards those who directly benefit from a solution and who have difficult-to-transfer local information about a particular application being solved, such as the direct users of a product or service. We examine the actual location of design activities in two fields in which custom products are produced by "mass-customization" methods: application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and computer telephony integration (CTI) systems. In both, we find that users rather than suppliers are the actual designers of the application-specific portion of the product types examined. We offer anecdotal evidence that the pattern of user-based customization we have documented in these two fields is in fact quite general, and we discuss implications for research and practice.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.44.5.629
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 44 (1998)
    Issue (Month): 5 (May)
    Pages: 629-644

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:44:y:1998:i:5:p:629-644

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    Related research

    Keywords: User Innovation; Sticky Information; Local Information; Heterogeneous Markets; Mass Customization; Specialization in Problem Solving; Task Partitioning;

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    Cited by:
    1. Gaudeul, Alexia, 2008. "Open Source Licensing in Mixed Markets, or Why Open Source Software Does Not Succeed," MPRA Paper 19596, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Cristiano Antonelli & Giuseppe Scellato, 2013. "Complexity and technological change: knowledge interactions and firm level total factor productivity," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 77-96, January.
    3. Di Stefano, Giada & Gambardella, Alfonso & Verona, Gianmario, 2012. "Technology push and demand pull perspectives in innovation studies: Current findings and future research directions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1283-1295.
    4. Antonelli,Cristiano & Gehringer,Agnieszka, 2012. "Knowledge externalities and demand pull: The European evidence," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis LEI & BRICK - Laboratory of Economics of Innovation "Franco Momigliano", Bureau of Research in Innovation, Complexity and Knowledge, Collegio 201214, University of Turin.
    5. Pierre Azoulay, 2003. "Acquiring Knowledge Within and Across Firm Boundaries: Evidence from Clinical Development," NBER Working Papers 10083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Andrea Fosfuri & Marco S. Giarratana & Esther Roca, 2010. "Community-based strategies in action: building and sustaining a product differentiation advantage," Business Economics Working Papers id-10-01, Universidad Carlos III, Instituto sobre Desarrollo Empresarial "Carmen Vidal Ballester".
    7. Tietz, Robert & Morrison, Pamela D. & Lüthje, Christian & Herstatt, Cornelius, 2004. "The process of user-innovation: A case study on user innovation in a consumer goods setting," Working Papers 29, Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Institute for Technology and Innovation Management.
    8. Skiba, Florian & Herstatt, Cornelius, 2008. "Integration of innovative users as source of service innovations," Working Papers 54, Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Institute for Technology and Innovation Management.
    9. Weerawardena, Jay & Mort, Gillian Sullivan & Liesch, Peter W. & Knight, Gary, 2007. "Conceptualizing accelerated internationalization in the born global firm: A dynamic capabilities perspective," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 294-306, September.
    10. Poh Kam Wong & Lena Lee & Maw Der Foo, 2008. "Occupational Choice: The Influence of Product vs. Process Innovation," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 267-281, March.
    11. Swann, G. M. Peter, 2001. "Sales practice and market evolution: the case of virtual reality," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(7), pages 1119-1139, July.
    12. Lee, In Hyeock & Rugman, Alan M., 2012. "Firm-specific advantages, inward FDI origins, and performance of multinational enterprises," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 132-146.
    13. Fogliatto, Flavio S. & da Silveira, Giovani J.C., 2008. "Mass customization: A method for market segmentation and choice menu design," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(2), pages 606-622, February.

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