Eric von Hippel and Consumer Co-Creation. Beyond Ethnography to Participatory Design.

Bruce Nussbaum

One of the strongest voices in the innovation and design space these days is MIT's Eric von Hippel, who is head of the innovation and entrepreneurship program at the Sloan School of Management. Von Hippel writes a lot about user-led innovation, by which he means letting consumers get more and more involved in the design and execution of new products and services. Von Hippel is quoted in the Sunday NYT piece "To Charge Up Customers, Put Customers in Charge," (nice head guys).

Here is one quote from the story: "It's getting cheaper and cheaper for users to innovate on their own," Professor von Hippel said. "This is not traditional market research — asking customers what they want. This is identifying what your most advanced users are already doing and understanding what their innovations mean for the future of your business."

Something big is happening here. Technology is allowing people to design their own stuff and companies are increasingly in the business of providing tools, not products, to consumers. Today, people are making ads for companies. Tomorrow, entire services. This is one cool trend we need to follow.

Liz Sanders of maketools.com tells me that "ethnographically-informed participatory design" is the next trend. It goes beyond ethnography and involves the active participation of people in the design and making of their products and services. I want to know more about participatory design.

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