Working Paper Series, Department of Industrial Economics & Strategy, Copenhagen Business School
Lars Bo Jeppesen
The implications of "user toolkits for innovation"
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: Innovation; User Toolkits; Consumer Support; Online Communities; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: L21; L23; O31; O32; (follow links to similar papers)
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