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Users Innovation: a brief explanation

Updated: Jan 26

The author Elisa Alessandroni of the article:"Users Innovation: a brief explanation".

Publication date: 20.11.2023

The concept of Users Innovation was introduced by Eric Von Hippel who observed that many products are developed by users. Their importance as a source of innovation is increasing day by day. This is thanks to technological development firstly and secondly thanks to all new ways to communicate. In other words, the world is connected, and people can share ideas or communicate freely.

Key points of User Innovation

User innovation is based on three key points:

  1. Users have relevant information about their needs.

  2. They will try to create solutions to those needs.

  3. They often reveal the solution to others.

So, users play an important role in innovation processes and help empires to develop products. Having said that; we underline that users are considered as individual consumers that expect to benefit from using a product or a service. In fact, they can benefit from every type of innovation.

Not all products may be satisfying

develop a new prototype

Products are developed to meet the widest possible need. So, most users will not face problems with the product, but a small part could. For this reason, they have the choice to develop modifications to existing products or develop a new prototype that could resolve a specific issue.

Somehow some new products can leave users dissatisfied because maybe they look different from users' experience, or don't fit well with their needs. This is the reason why users often resolve the problem by innovating and creating a new product.

How do users innovate?

We have two different perspectives:

The first divides users’ innovation into two models: user-centric and firm centric.

● The user-centric model focuses on individuals that directly benefit from innovation, using to address their own needs.

● The firm-centric model is based on accessing users as a source of knowledge that could improve its economic performance.

The second perspective relates to the locus of the innovation created by users. The combination of these two identified sets of themes leads to four different points:

Single user innovation.

User community innovation.

Mass-customized innovation.

Firm-hosted community innovation.

How users do innovate

Single user innovation

This theme is focused on a single individual that creates an innovation to use it in their life.

In this case single users innovate and create something new to satisfy their unique needs. Then they can share the idea and collect all the feedback to decide whether to commercialize it or not. So, the characteristic of this type of innovation is that there is no interest in commercializing the innovation.

User community innovation

This type of innovation is like a cooperation between many users that share their ideas. Collaborating users must communicate with one another rapidly.

Mass-customized innovation

The aim is focused at the production of products and services with enough variety and customization.

This makes sure that everyone finds exactly what they want at prices comparable with standard offerings.

Firm-hosted community innovation

This innovation generates interaction and cooperation between users and the company, and between users themselves.


So, users’ ability to innovate is rapidly increasing because of technological improvements. As a result, more and more users will have the opportunity to innovate or contribute to producer innovation.


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