The implications of "user toolkits for innovation"
Leading firms have begun to offer “user toolkits for innovation”. User toolkits are seen as a means to eliminate (costly) iterations of need-related-information between users and producers in the product development process because toolkits allow users to perform need-related aspects of product development themselves (von Hippel, 2001; Thomke and von Hippel, 2002; von Hippel and Katz, 2002 ). In this paper we investigate the implications of increasing opportunities for consumer involvement (OCI) in the product development process. What happens when a firm throws over design tasks to consumers? We explore the issue by looking into the relation between user toolkits and firms’ need to support their consumers. A statistical analysis of the OCI-characteristics of 78 computer games products and the intensity of firm support to these products, shows that the higher the OCI, the more a firm will support its consumers. This finding suggests that a portion of the information costs saved (on a reduced number of information iterations between user and producers) may eventually re-emerge as costs in consumer support. However, what is more important is to determine what the support rates are compensating for. Therefore we proceed to identify a number of important (interrelated) dimensions of the toolkit approach. Apart from the support dimension previously mentioned we find in addition two dimensions that may affect the effectiveness of the toolkit approach: 1) the size of solution space left open to consumers; 2) the pre-existing consumer capabilities for dealing with toolkittechnology. We conclude by suggesting that interactive consumer learning will positively affect the toolkits approach. In a case, we study the importance of consumer-toconsumer interaction as a means of substituting firms support efforts and conclude that facilitation of such interaction can enhance the outcomes of the toolkit approach.
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