Publication statistics

Pub. period:1979-2014
Pub. count:18
Number of co-authors:17


Number of publications with 3 favourite co-authors:

Mary Sonnack:
Kathleen Searls:
Gary L. Lilien:



Productive colleagues

Eric von Hippel's 3 most productive colleagues in number of publications:

Joseph A. Paradiso:19
Joachim Henkel:3
Georg von Krogh:3

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Eric von Hippel

Picture of Eric von Hippel.
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Has also published under the name of:
"Eric von. Hippel"

I am a Professor of Technological Innovation in the MIT Sloan School of Management, and am also a Professor in MIT's Engineering Systems Division. I specialize in research related to the nature and economics of distributed and open innovation. I also develop and teach about practical methods that individuals, open user communities, and firms can apply to improve their product and service development processes.


Publications by Eric von Hippel (bibliography)

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Hippel, Eric von (2014): Open User Innovation. In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.). "The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.". Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. Available online at

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Jong, Jeroen P. J. De and Hippel, Eric von (2009): Measuring User Innovation in Dutch High Tech SMEs: Frequency, Nature and Transfer to Producers. In ,

A detailed survey of 498 high tech SMEs in the Netherlands shows process innovation by user firms to be common practice. Fifty four percent of these relatively small firms reported developing entirely novel process equipment or software for their own use and/or modifying these at significant private expense. Twenty five percent of the user innovations in our sample were transferred to commercializing producer firms. Many transfers were made without any direct compensation, i.e. 48% were simply given away. Very importantly from the perspective of effective diffusion of user innovations, innovations with higher commercial potential for producers - and with more general appeal for users - are much more likely to be transferred. The pattern we document of frequent innovation by individual user firms at substantial cost, followed in many cases by voluntary, no-charge information spillovers to producers, suggests that open source economics may be a general pattern in the economy.

© All rights reserved Jong and Hippel and/or their publisher

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Hippel, Eric von and Paradiso, Joseph A. (2008): User Innovation and Hacking. In IEEE Pervasive Computing, 7 (3) pp. 66-69.

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Hippel, Eric von (2005): Democratizing Innovation. The MIT Press

Innovation is rapidly becoming democratized. Users, aided by improvements in computer and communications technology, increasingly can develop their own new products and services. These innovating users—both individuals and firms—often freely share their innovations with others, creating user-innovation communities and a rich intellectual commons. In Democratizing Innovation, Eric von Hippel looks closely at this emerging system of user-centered innovation. He explains why and when users find it profitable to develop new products and services for themselves, and why it often pays users to reveal their innovations freely for the use of all. The trend toward democratized innovation can be seen in software and information products—most notably in the free and open-source software movement—but also in physical products. Von Hippel's many examples of user innovation in action range from surgical equipment to surfboards to software security features. He shows that product and service development is concentrated among "lead users," who are ahead on marketplace trends and whose innovations are often commercially attractive. Von Hippel argues that manufacturers should redesign their innovation processes and that they should systematically seek out innovations developed by users. He points to businesses—the custom semiconductor industry is one example—that have learned to assist user-innovators by providing them with toolkits for developing new products. User innovation has a positive impact on social welfare, and von Hippel proposes that government policies, including R&D subsidies and tax credits, should be realigned to eliminate biases against it. The goal of a democratized user-centered innovation system, says von Hippel, is well worth striving for. An electronic version of this book is available under a Creative Commons license.

© All rights reserved Hippel and/or The MIT Press

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Henkel, Joachim and Hippel, Eric von (2004): Welfare Implications of User Innovation. In The Journal of Technology Transfer, 30 (1) pp. 73-87

The literature on new goods and social welfare generally assumes that manufacturers develop innovations. But innovation by users has been found to also be an important part of innovative activity in the economy. In this Paper we explore the impact of users as a source of innovation on product diversity, innovation, and welfare. We examine the impact of user innovation on inefficiencies that bias the provision of new goods, and find that most are either alleviated or non-existent for user innovation. There are three major reasons for this. First, user innovations tend to complement manufacturer innovations, filling small niches of high need left open by commercial sellers. Second, user innovation helps to reduce information asymmetries between manufacturers and users. Third, user innovations are more likely to be freely revealed than manufacturer innovations. We conclude that, compared to a counterfactual world without such innovation, social welfare is most likely to be increased by the presence of user innovation. We derive implications for policy-makers and managers.

© All rights reserved Henkel and Hippel and/or Springer

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Hippel, Eric von and Krogh, Georg von (2003): Open Source Software and the "Private-Collective" Innovation Model: Issues for Organization Science. In Organization Science, 14 (2) pp. 209-223

Currently, two models of innovation are prevalent in organization science. The private investment model assumes returns to the innovator result from private goods and efficient regimes of intellectual property protection. The collective action model assumes that under conditions of market failure, innovators collaborate in order to produce a public good. The phenomenon of open source software development shows that users program to solve their own as well as shared technical problems, and freely reveal their innovations without appropriating private returns from selling the software. In this paper, we propose that open source software development is an exemplar of a compound private-collective model of innovation that contains elements of both the private investment and the collective action models and can offer society the best of both worlds under many conditions. We describe a new set of research questions this model raises for scholars in organization science. We offer some details regarding the types of data available for open source projects in order to ease access for researchers who are unfamiliar with these, and also offer some advice on conducting empirical studies on open source software development processes.

© All rights reserved Hippel and Krogh and/or their publisher

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Lthje, Christian, Herstatt, Cornelius and Hippel, Eric von (2003): The Dominant Role of "Local" Information in the User Innovation The Case of Mountain Biking. In ,

In a study of innovations developed by mountain bikers, we find that user-innovators almost always utilize "local" information - information already in their possession or generated by themselves - to assess the need for and to develop solutions for their innovations. We argue that this finding fits the economic incentives operating on users. Local need information is the most relevant to user-innovators, since the bulk of their innovation-related rewards typically come from in-house use. Local solution information that is already "in stock" is preferred because it can be applied to innovation-related problem-solving at a relatively low cost. Our findings suggest that innovation development is distributed among users in an economical way: user-innovations tend to be developed by "low-cost providers." It also suggests that the likely function and solution type employed in most user innovations can be predicted on the basis of preexisting user activity patterns and stocks of solution-related information. This in turn opens the way to new methods for efficiently screening user populations for the presence of innovations of any specified type

© All rights reserved Lthje et al. and/or their publisher

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Harhoff, Dietmar, Henkel, Joachim and Hippel, Eric von (2003): Profiting from voluntary information spillovers: how users benefit by freely revealing their innovations. In Research Policy, 32 (10) pp. 1753-1769

Empirical studies of innovation have found that end users frequently develop important product and process innovations. Defying conventional wisdom on the negative effects of uncompensated spillovers, innovative users also often openly reveal their innovations to competing users and to manufacturers. Rival users are thus in a position to reproduce the innovation in-house and benefit from using it, and manufacturers are in a position to refine the innovation and sell it to all users, including competitors of the user revealing its innovation. In this paper, we explore the incentives that users might have to freely reveal their proprietary innovations. We then develop a game-theoretic model to explore the effect of these incentives on users' decisions to reveal or hide their proprietary information. We find that, under realistic parameter constellations, free revealing pays. We conclude by discussing some implications of our findings.

© All rights reserved Harhoff et al. and/or Blackwell Scientific Publications

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Thomke, Stefan and Hippel, Eric von (2002): Customers as Innovators: A New Way to Create Value. In Harvard Business Review, 80 (4) pp. 74-81

Product R&D at many companies is a major bottleneck. The difficulty is that fully understanding the needs of just a single customer can be an inexact and costly process-to say nothing of the needs of all customers or even groups of them. In the course of studying product innovation across many industries, authors Stefan Thomke and Eric von Hippel have found several companies that have adopted a completely new, seemingly counterintuitive, approach to product R&D. Essentially, these companies have abandoned their efforts to understand exactly what products their customers want; instead, they equip customers with tool kits to design and develop their own products. Doing so can create tremendous value, but capturing that value is hardly a simple or straightforward process. Not only must a company develop the right tool kit, but it must also revamp its business models and management mind-set. When companies relinquish a fundamental task-such as designing a new product-to customers, the two parties must redefine their relationship, and this change can be risky. With custom computer chips, for instance, companies traditionally captured value by both designing and manufacturing innovative products. With customers taking over more of the design, companies must now focus more on providing the best custom manufacturing. In other words, the location where value is created and is captured changes, and companies must reconfigure their business models accordingly. This article offers basic principles and lessons for industries undergoing such transformations.

© All rights reserved Thomke and Hippel and/or Harvard Business School Press

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Hippel, Eric von and Katz, Ralph (2002): Shifting Innovation to Users via Toolkits. In Management Science, 48 (7) pp. 821-833

In the traditional new product development process, manufacturers first explore user needs and then develop responsive products. Developing an accurate understanding of a user need is not simple or fast or cheap, however. As a result, the traditional approach is coming under increasing strain as user needs change more rapidly, and as firms increasingly seek to serve markets of one. Toolkits for user innovation is an emerging alternative approach in which manufacturers actually abandon the attempt to understand user needs in detail in favor of transferring need-related aspects of product and service development to users. Experience in fields where the toolkit approach has been pioneered show custom products being developed much more quickly and at a lower cost. In this paper we explore toolkits for user innovation and explain why and how they work.

© All rights reserved Hippel and Katz and/or INFORMS

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Lilien, Gary L., Morrison, Pamela D., Searls, Kathleen, Sonnack, Mary and Hippel, Eric von (2002): Performance Assessment of the Lead User Idea-Generation Process for New Product Development. In Management Science, 48 (8) pp. 1042-1059

Traditional idea generation techniques based on customer input usually collect information on new product needs from a random or typical set of customers. The lead user process takes a different approach. It collects information about both needs and solutions from users at the leading edges of the target market, as well as from users in other markets that face similar problems in a more extreme form. This paper reports on a natural experiment conducted within the 3M Company on the effect of the lead user (LU) idea-generation process relative to more traditional methods. 3M is known for its innovation capabilities and we find that the LU process appears to improve upon those capabilities. Annual sales of LU product ideas generated by the average LU project at 3M are conservatively projected to be $146 million after five yearsmore than eight times higher than forecast sales for the average contemporaneously conducted traditional project. Each funded LU project is projected to create a new major product line for a 3M division. As a direct result, divisions funding LU project ideas are projecting their highest rate of major product line generation in the past 50 years.

© All rights reserved Lilien et al. and/or INFORMS

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Morrison, Pamela D., Roberts, John H. and Hippel, Eric von (2000): Determinants of User Innovation and Innovation Sharing in a Local Market. In Management Science, 46 (12) pp. 1513-1527

It is known that end users of products and services sometimes innovate, and that innovations developed by users sometimes become the basis for important newcommercial products and services. It has also been argued and to some extent shown that such innovations will be found concentrated in a "lead user" segment of the user community. However, neither the characteristics of innovating users nor the scope of the community that they "lead" has been explored in depth.In this paper, we explore the characteristics of innovation, innovators, and innovation sharing by library users of OPAC information search systems in Australia. This market has capable users, but it is nonetheless clearly a "follower" with respect to worldwide technological advance. Wefind that 26% of users in this local market nonetheless do modify their OPACs in both major and minor ways, and that OPAC manufacturers judge many of these user modifications to be of commercial interest. We find that we can distinguish modifying from nonmodifying users on the basis of a number of factors, including their "leading-edge status" and their in-house technical capabilities. We find that many innovating users freely share their innovations with others, and find that we can distinguish users that share information about their modifications from users that do not. We conclude by considering some implications of our findings for idea generation practices in marketing.

© All rights reserved Morrison et al. and/or INFORMS

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Riggs, William and Hippel, Eric von (1994): The Impact of Scientific and Commercial Values on the Sources of Scientific Instrument Innovation. In Research Policy, 23 (0) pp. 459-469

In this study we explore the relationship between the sources of innovation and incentives to innovate in a sample of 64 innovations related to Auger and Esca - two types of scientific instrument used to analyze the surface chemistry of solid materials. We find that innovations with high scientific importance tend to be developed by instrument users, while innovations having high commercial importance tend to be developed by instrument manufacturers. We also find that the ratio of user and manufacturer innovation affecting a given type of instrument can vary as a function of that instrument type's perceived scientific and commercial importance. Finally, we find that the scientific and commercial importance of innovations developed for Auger and Esca, and the frequency with which these have been developed, have varied significantly over time.

© All rights reserved Riggs and Hippel and/or Blackwell Scientific Publications

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Hippel, Eric von (1994): "Sticky information" and the locus of problem solving: implications for innovation. In Management Science, 40 (4) pp. 429-439

"Sticky information" and the locus of problem solving : implications for innovation (1993) Abstract Sticky Information and the Locus Problem Solving Implications for Innovation Eric von Hippel September very grateful colleagues Anne Carter Bradley Feld Dietmar Harhoff Zvi Griliches Ralph Katz Richard Nelson Nathan Rosenberg Stephan Schrader Stefan Thomke Marcie Tyre and Jessie von Hippel for their contributions the ideas explored this paper thank the Sloan Foundation for funding the research reported this paper ABSTRACT solve problem needed information and problem solving capabilities must brought together Often the information used technical problem solving costly acquire transfer and use new locus our terms sticky this paper explore the impact information stickiness the locus innovation related problem solving find first that when sticky information needed problem solvers held one site only problem solving will carried out that locus other things being equal Second when more than one locus sticky information called upon problem solvers the locus problem solving may iterate among these sites problem solving proceeds When the cost such iteration high then third problems that draw upon multiple sites sticky information will sometimes partitioned into subproblems that each draw only one such locus and fourth investments will made reduce the stickiness information some locations Information stickiness appears affect number issues importance researchers and practitioners Among these are patterns the diffusion information the specialization firms the locus innovation and the nat

© All rights reserved Hippel and/or INFORMS

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Hippel, Eric von (1994): The Sources of Innovation. Oxford University Press, USA

It has long been assumed that new product innovations are typically developed by product manufacturers, an assumption that has inevitably had a major impact on innovation-related research and activities ranging from how firms organize their research and development to how governments measure innovation. In this synthesis of his seminal research, von Hippel challenges that basic assumption and demonstrates that innovation occurs in different places in different industries. Presenting a series of studies showing that end-users, material suppliers, and others are the typical sources of innovation in some fields, von Hippel explores why this variation in the "functional" sources of innovation occurs and how it might be predicted. He also proposes and tests some implications of replacing a manufacturer-as-innovator assumption with a view of the innovation process as predictably distributed across users, manufacturers, and suppliers. Innovation, he argues, will take place where there is greatest economic benefit to the innovator.

© All rights reserved Hippel and/or Oxford University Press, USA

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Herstatt, Cornelius and Hippel, Eric von (1992): From Experience: Developing New Product Concepts Via the Lead User Method: A Case Study in a “Low‐Tech” Field. In Journal of Product Innovation Management, 9 (3) pp. 213-221

Conventional market research methods do not work well in the instance of many industrial goods and services, and yet, accurate understanding of user need is essential for successful product innovation. Cornelius Herstatt and Eric von Hippel report on a successful field application of a lead user method for developing concepts for needed new products. This method is built around the idea that the richest understanding of needed new products is held by just a few users. It is possible to identify these lead users and then draw them into a process of joint development of new product concepts with manufacturer personnel. In the application described, the lead user method was found to be much faster than traditional ways of identifying promising new product concepts as well as less costly. It also was judged to provide better outcomes by the firm participating in the case. The article includes practical detail on the steps that were used to implement the method at Hilti AG, a leading manufacturer of products and materials used in construction.

© All rights reserved Herstatt and Hippel and/or Product Development Association

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Urban, Glen L and Hippel, Eric von (1988): Lead User Analyses for the Development of New Industrial Products. In Management Science, 34 (5) pp. 569-582

Recently, a "lead user" concept has been proposed for new product development in fields subject to rapid change (von Hippel 1986). In this paper we integrate market research within this lead user methodology and report a test of it in the rapidly evolving field of computer-aided systems for the design of printed circuit boards (PC-CAD). In the test, lead users were successfully identified and proved to have unique and useful data regarding both new product needs and solutions responsive to those needs. New product concepts generated on the basis of lead user data were found to be strongly preferred by a representative sample of PC-CAD users. We discuss strengths and weaknesses of this first empirical test of the lead user methodology, and suggest directions for future research.

© All rights reserved Urban and Hippel and/or INFORMS

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Hippel, Eric von and Finkelstein, Stan N. (1979): Product designs which encourage -- or discourage -- related innovation by users: an analysis of innovation in automated clinical chemistry analyzers. In Science & Public Policy, 6 (1) pp. 24-37

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