How User Innovations become Commercial Products: A Theoretical Investigation and Case Study

Carliss Baldwin, Christoph Hienerth, Eric Von Hippel*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    In this paper we model the pathways commonly traversed as user innovations are transformed into commercial products. First, one or more users recognize a new set of design possibilities and begin to innovate. They then join into communities, motivated by the increased efficiency of collective innovation. User-manufacturers then emerge, using high-variable/low-capital cost production methods. Finally, as user innovation slows, the market stabilizes enough for high-capital, low-variable cost manufacturing to enter. We test the model against the history of the rodeo kayak industry and find it supported. We discuss implications for “dominant design” theory and for innovation practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalResearch Policy
    Issue number9
    Pages (from-to)1291-1313
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


    • User innovation
    • Communities
    • Dominant design
    • Industry evolution
    • Real options

    Cite this