In this paper we report upon a first empirical exploration of the relative efficiency of innovation development by product users vs. product producers. In a study of over 50 years of product innovation in the whitewater kayaking field, we find users in aggregate were approximately 3× more efficient at developing important kayaking product innovations than were producers in aggregate. We speculate that this result is driven by what we term “efficiencies of scope” in problem-solving. These can favor an aggregation of many user innovators, each spending a little, over fewer producer innovators benefitting from higher economies of scale in product development. We also note that the present study explores only one initial point on what is likely to be a complex efficiency landscape.
Research Policy, 2014, Vol 43, p. 190-201
User innovation; Efficiency measurement; Industry development