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Episodes of Collective Invention

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  • Peter B. Meyer

    () (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Abstract

The process of developing technology through open discussion has been called collective invention. Open source software projects have this form. This paper documents two earlier episodes of collective invention and proposes a general model based on search theory. One episode was the development of mass production steel in the U.S. (1866-1885), and the second with early personal computers (1975-1985). Technical people openly discussed and shared these developing technologies between firms. Collective invention episodes begin with an invention or a change in legal restrictions. Hobbyists and startup firms experiment with practical methods of production and share their results through a social network whose members gradually form a new industry. The network itself may disappear if the firms then keep their R&D secret. A model of an innovation search can describe this process if it is expanded to include independent hobbyists and consultants as well as profit-seeking firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter B. Meyer, 2003. "Episodes of Collective Invention," Working Papers 368, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec030050
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alessandro Nuvolari, 2004. "Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 347-363, May.
    2. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Some Simple Economics of Open," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 197-234, June.
    3. Schrader, Stephan, 1991. "Informal technology transfer between firms: Cooperation through information trading," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 153-170, April.
    4. Cowan, R. & Jonard, N., 2003. "The dynamics of collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 513-532, December.
    5. Nuvolari, A., 2003. "Open source software development: some historical perspectives," Working Papers 03.01, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
    6. Weber, Steven, 2000. "The Political Economy of Open Source Software," UCAIS Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, Working Paper Series qt3hq916dc, UCAIS Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, UC Berkeley.
    7. Richard R. Nelson, 1982. "The Role of Knowledge in R&D Efficiency," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(3), pages 453-470.
    8. Jovanovic, Boyan & Rob, Rafael, 1990. "Long Waves and Short Waves: Growth through Intensive and Extensive Search," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1391-1409, November.
    9. Harhoff, Dietmar & Henkel, Joachim & von Hippel, Eric, 2003. "Profiting from voluntary information spillovers: how users benefit by freely revealing their innovations," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 1753-1769, December.
    10. Julia Porter Liebeskind & Amalya Lumerman Oliver & Lynne Zucker & Marilynn Brewer, 1996. "Social networks, Learning, and Flexibility: Sourcing Scientific Knowledge in New Biotechnology Firms," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 7(4), pages 428-443, August.
    11. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
    12. Julia Porter Liebeskind & Amalya Lumerman Oliver & Lynne G. Zucker & Marilynn B. Brewer, 1995. "Social Networks, Learning, and Flexibility: Sourcing Scientific Knowledge in New Biotechnology Firms," NBER Working Papers 5320, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Hellmann & Enrico Perotti, 2011. "The Circulation of Ideas in Firms and Markets," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(10), pages 1813-1826, October.
    2. Shane Greenstein, 2011. "Nurturing the Accumulation of Innovations: Lessons from the Internet," NBER Chapters,in: Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors, pages 189-223 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Coslovsky, Salo V., 2014. "Economic Development without Pre-Requisites: How Bolivian Producers Met Strict Food Safety Standards and Dominated the Global Brazil-Nut Market," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 32-45.
    4. James Bessen & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2017. "Diffusing New Technology without Dissipating Rents: Some Historical Case Studies of Knwoledge Sharing," LEM Papers Series 2017/28, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    5. Blecker, Thorsten & Abdelkafi, Nizar & Raasch, Christina, 2008. "Enabling and Sustaining Collaborative Innovation," MPRA Paper 8964, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Braguinsky, Serguey & Rose, David C., 2009. "Competition, cooperation, and the neighboring farmer effect," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 361-376, October.
    7. Osterloh, Margit & Rota, Sandra, 2007. "Open source software development--Just another case of collective invention?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 157-171, March.
    8. Margit Osterloh & Sandra Rota, 2005. "Open Source software development ? just another case of collective invention?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2005-08, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    9. James Bessen, 2010. "Communicating Technical Knowledge," Working Papers 1001, Research on Innovation.
    10. John T. Scott, 2016. "Creativity for invention insights: corporate strategies and opportunities for public entrepreneurship," Economia e Politica Industriale: Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, Springer;Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale, vol. 43(4), pages 409-448, December.
    11. Meyer, Peter B., 2007. "Network of Tinkerers: A Model of Open-Source Technology Innovation," Working Papers 413, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    12. Blecker, Thorsten & Abdelkafi, Nizar & Raasch, Christina, 2008. "Enabling and sustaining collaborative innovation," Working Papers 52, Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Institute for Technology and Innovation Management.
    13. Peter B. Meyer, 2005. "Turbulence, Inequality, and Cheap Steel," Working Papers 375, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    14. Henkel, Joachim, 2006. "Selective revealing in open innovation processes: The case of embedded Linux," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 953-969, September.
    15. Serguey Braguinsky, 2015. "Knowledge diffusion and industry growth: the case of Japan’s early cotton spinning industry," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(4), pages 769-790.
    16. Preißner, Stephanie & Raasch, Christina & Schweisfurth, Tim, 2017. "Is necessity the mother of disruption?," Kiel Working Papers 2097, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    17. Roger W. Ferguson & William L. Wascher, 2004. "Distinguished Lecture on Economics in Government: Lessons from Past Productivity Booms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 3-28, Spring.
    18. Julien Pénin, 2008. "More open than open innovation? Rethinking the concept of openness in innovation studies," Working Papers of BETA 2008-18, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    19. Schrape, Jan-Felix, 2017. "Open source projects as incubators of innovation: From niche phenomenon to integral part of the software industry," Research Contributions to Organizational Sociology and Innovation Studies, SOI Discussion Papers 2017-03, University of Stuttgart, Institute for Social Sciences, Department of Organizational Sociology and Innovation Studies.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    technological change; uncertainty; search; innovation;

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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