The Visible Hand and the Crowd: Analyzing Organization Design in Distributed Innovation Systems

Martin Kornberger

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The effectiveness and creativity of Linux, Wikipedia, and a plethora of other distributed innovation systems have attracted the attention of scholars, practitioners, and policy makers. The hallmark of these distributed innovation systems is that value creation transcends the boundaries of hierarchically organized firms. To date, only relatively few studies have focused on the organization design of distributed innovation systems. This conceptual article addresses this lacuna by asking, how does organization design structure relationships in distributed innovation systems, including interactions between the “visible hand” of the manager and the “crowd” of distributed innovation? The purpose of this article is to shift the unit of analysis of organization design from the individual firm to networks of actors providing a framework to study how design organizes distributed innovation systems. In order to do so, three design mechanisms (interface design, the design of participatory architectures, and the design of evaluative infrastructures) are proposed through which firms and other network actors organize their encounter in “the open” and through which they manage communication, coordination of tasks, and control in distributed innovation systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStrategic Organization
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)174-193
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Crowds
  • Distributed Innovation
  • Organization design
  • Organization theory
  • Search
  • Strategy

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