The Quirkiness of Individual Innovation

Innovative firms often seek input from consumers for product design, testing, and assessment of other needs in deciding what new products are viable for development.  However, consumers acting as the driver of key innovative ideas is still seen as a novelty.  Great innovations need not originate in a lab by a clever engineer; they can come from resourceful individuals trying to solve their own problems.

A  1976 MIT study found that 80% of innovations concerning scientific instruments are in fact invented, proto-typed, and field-tested by users rather than manufacturers.  A number of popular products, including the mountain bike, came to the market as a result of lone innovators or local communities working together.  However, individual innovation can also be very challenging, as everyone has a creative comfort level based on their willingness to risk new ideas.  Pushing people beyond this level has been found to cause stress or unhappiness.

To help facilitate the difficult process of developing a product and bringing it to market, a website called Quirky was launched in which innovators could pitch their ideas to like-minded entrepreneurial spirits.  There, potential collaborators can evaluate rudimentary product ideas and decide if they would like to contribute their particular skill set in bringing the product to market.  In a sense, Quirky utilizes social media to organize economic activity and help innovators pursue their ideas.  So far the website has helped develop spatulas, an ice scraper, and an iPad stand.

Posted by:  Jason Schall

Sources: Businessweek, designnews.com, jpb.com, lohud.com, mit.edu, topnews.us

Photo Credit: jellyfish_sonic courtesy of flickr user bbaunch

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