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Overview page.

Typology of Innovation


Price-driven innovation

"focuses mainly on cost efficiency and strives toward having the lowest prices on the market. Examples of this may be different low-price airlines (like Norwegian or Sterling).

research or technology-driven innovation

the product emerges from the availability of new technology principles and devices. And the aim here is to gain a technological advantage over the competitors by being the first to introduce these new principles in the market. We find examples of this in the medical industry.

user-driven innovation

where the innovation process is about exploiting the knowledge about the customer when trying to answer explicit and immediate needs in the market. The focus here is to develop a product or service which meet these demands in a better way than the product or service did before." (

Original source: [1]

2. Jean Russell:

Disruptive Innovation

"Here, we are looking at game-changing innovation. These innovations offer an unexpected new value proposition. This type of innovations requires: deep creativity, long term market building, and has trouble creating market (because people don’t even know they want it yet).

To be disruptive is deep creativity – coming up with something that no one else is doing or knows they need. They aren’t inward facing: “how do we do what we do better?” They aren’t outward facing: “how do we do something better than what others do?” They involve lots of random play in a nonlinear process. Attention focuses on where there is complacency or “accepted wisdom” that no one else is questioning in the market. Highly emergent, networking is everything. To be disruptive, you must see a striking new perspective on a existing problem. To win the market by being disruptive you need to execute on a bold plan. To be successful, you have to invite people to make a trade off in what they think is valuable. You create a different value proposition where that market validates the trade off as an improvement.

Combinatory Innovation

Welcome the the world of mashup innovation. These innovations take something that is working in some other domain and transport it into a new domain or they take existing offers and bundle them in better ways. This type of innovation requires: broad awareness outside market zone and short-term market building.

To be combinatory, innovators look outside their domain of known expertise for ideas that work. Partly emergent, you have to be able to see what is not there yet. This is a world of allegory. Find systems like your system and use what works there. Alternately, take several things that work and combine them in new and more effective ways. The value proposition is enhanced: more, wider attributes.

Efficiency Innovation

These innovations focus on refinement. They offer iterative improvement on existing technologies by reducing waste. These types of innovation require: engineering creativity and competitive market building.

To be efficiency innovators, look for ways to refine what is. This is about control and limitation. What about what is there now is not critical? What about what exists really matters and what can be left behind? Remove what is not highest value adding. What would a simpler way to do it be? The value proposition stays the same, it is offered with better speed/cost/options." (

Key Innovation Trends

  1. Innovation is becoming diffuse: Diffuse Innovation
  2. Innovation is becoming social, socialized: Socialization of Innovation
  3. Innovation is becoming "user-centered": User-Centered Innovation
  4. Innovation depends on Communities: Role of Communities in Innovation


  1. The Power Laws of Innovation
  2. Micro-Innovation


A critique of the concept of innovation

Andrew Russell:

"In a biting essay titled ‘Innovation is the New Black’, Michael Bierut, writing in Design Observer in 2005, lamented the ‘mania for innovation, or at least for endlessly repeating the word “innovation”’. Soon, even business publications began to raise the question of inherent worth. In 2006, The Economist noted that Chinese officials had made innovation into a ‘national buzzword’, even as it smugly reported that China’s educational system ‘stresses conformity and does little to foster independent thinking’, and that the Communist Party’s new catchphrases ‘mostly end up fizzling out in puddles of rhetoric’. Later that year, Businessweek warned: ‘Innovation is in grave danger of becoming the latest overused buzzword. We’re doing our part at Businessweek.’ Again in Businessweek, on the last day of 2008, the design critic Bruce Nussbaum returned to the theme, declaring that innovation ‘died in 2008, killed off by overuse, misuse, narrowness, incrementalism and failure to evolve… In the end, “Innovation” proved to be weak as both a tactic and strategy in the face of economic and social turmoil.’

In 2012, even the Wall Street Journal got into innovation-bashing act, noting ‘the Term Has Begun to Lose Meaning’. At the time, it counted ‘more than 250 books with “innovation” in the title… published in the last three months’. A professional innovation consultant it interviewed advised his clients to ban the word at their companies. He said it was just a ‘word to hide the lack of substance’.

Evidence has emerged that regions of intense innovation also have systemic problems with inequality. In 2013, protests erupted in San Francisco over the gentrification and social stratification symbolised by Google buses and other private commuter buses. These shuttles brought high-tech employees from hip, pricey urban homes to their lush suburban campuses, without exposing them to the inconvenience of public transportation or to the vast populations of the poor and homeless who also call Silicon Valley their home. The dramatic, unnecessary suffering exposed by such juxtapositions of economic inequality seems to be a feature, not a bug of highly innovative regions.

The trajectory of ‘innovation’ from core, valued practice to slogan of dystopian societies, is not entirely surprising, at a certain level. There is a formulaic feel: a term gains popularity because it resonates with the zeitgeist, reaches buzzword status, then suffers from overexposure and cooptation. Right now, the formula has brought society to a question: after ‘innovation’ has been exposed as hucksterism, is there a better way to characterise relationships between society and technology?

There are three basic ways to answer that question. First, it is crucial to understand that technology is not innovation. Innovation is only a small piece of what happens with technology. This preoccupation with novelty is unfortunate because it fails to account for technologies in widespread use, and it obscures how many of the things around us are quite old. In his book, Shock of the Old (2007), the historian David Edgerton examines technology-in-use. He finds that common objects, like the electric fan and many parts of the automobile, have been virtually unchanged for a century or more. When we take this broader perspective, we can tell different stories with drastically different geographical, chronological, and sociological emphases. The stalest innovation stories focus on well-to-do white guys sitting in garages in a small region of California, but human beings in the Global South live with technologies too. Which ones? Where do they come from? How are they produced, used, repaired? Yes, novel objects preoccupy the privileged, and can generate huge profits. But the most remarkable tales of cunning, effort, and care that people direct toward technologies exist far beyond the same old anecdotes about invention and innovation.

Second, by dropping innovation, we can recognise the essential role of basic infrastructures. ‘Infrastructure’ is a most unglamorous term, the type of word that would have vanished from our lexicon long ago if it didn’t point to something of immense social importance. Remarkably, in 2015 ‘infrastructure’ came to the fore of conversations in many walks of American life. In the wake of a fatal Amtrak crash near Philadelphia, President Obama wrestled with Congress to pass an infrastructure bill that Republicans had been blocking, but finally approved in December 2015. ‘Infrastructure’ also became the focus of scholarly communities in history and anthropology, even appearing 78 times on the programme of the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Artists, journalists, and even comedians joined the fray, most memorably with John Oliver’s hilarious sketch starring Edward Norton and Steve Buscemi in a trailer for an imaginary blockbuster on the dullest of subjects. By early 2016, the New York Review of Books brought the ‘earnest and passive word’ to the attention of its readers, with a depressing essay titled ‘A Country Breaking Down’.

Despite recurring fantasies about the end of work, the central fact of our industrial civilisation is labour, most of which falls far outside the realm of innovation

The best of these conversations about infrastructure move away from narrow technical matters to engage deeper moral implications. Infrastructure failures – train crashes, bridge failures, urban flooding, and so on – are manifestations of and allegories for America’s dysfunctional political system, its frayed social safety net, and its enduring fascination with flashy, shiny, trivial things. But, especially in some corners of the academic world, a focus on the material structures of everyday life can take a bizarre turn, as exemplified in work that grants ‘agency’ to material things or wraps commodity fetishism in the language of high cultural theory, slick marketing, and design. For example, Bloomsbury’s ‘Object Lessons’ series features biographies of and philosophical reflections on human-built things, like the golf ball. What a shame it would be if American society matured to the point where the shallowness of the innovation concept became clear, but the most prominent response was an equally superficial fascination with golf balls, refrigerators, and remote controls.

Third, focusing on infrastructure or on old, existing things rather than novel ones reminds us of the absolute centrality of the work that goes into keeping the entire world going. Despite recurring fantasies about the end of work or the automation of everything, the central fact of our industrial civilisation is labour, and most of this work falls far outside the realm of innovation. Inventors and innovators are a small slice – perhaps somewhere around one per cent – of this workforce. If gadgets are to be profitable, corporations need people to manufacture, sell, and distribute them. Another important facet of technological labour comes when people actually use a product. In some cases, the image of the ‘user’ could be an individual like you, sitting at your computer, but in other cases, end users are institutions – companies, governments, or universities that struggle to make technologies work in ways that their inventors and makers never envisioned.

The most unappreciated and undervalued forms of technological labour are also the most ordinary: those who repair and maintain technologies that already exist, that were ‘innovated’ long ago. This shift in emphasis involves focusing on the constant processes of entropy and un-doing – which the media scholar Steven Jackson calls ‘broken world thinking’ – and the work we do to slow or halt them, rather than on the introduction of novel things. In recent years, scholars have produced a number of studies of people who do this kind of work. For example, the science studies researcher Lilly Irani has examined the work low-wage labourers do to scrub digital information for the web, including Indian workers who check advertisements to ‘filter out porn, alcohol, and violence’. Why not extend this style of analysis to think more clearly about subjects such as ‘cybersecurity’? The need for coders and programmers in the cybersecurity field is obvious, but it should be equally obvious that fundamental vulnerabilities in our cyber-infrastructures are protected by the guards who work graveyard shifts and staff who repair fences and ID card-readers.

We can think of labour that goes into maintenance and repair as the work of the maintainers, those individuals whose work keeps ordinary existence going rather than introducing novel things. Brief reflection demonstrates that the vast majority of human labour, from laundry and trash removal to janitorial work and food preparation, is of this type: upkeep. This realisation has significant implications for gender relations in and around technology. Feminist theorists have long argued that obsessions with technological novelty obscures all of the labour, including housework, that women, disproportionately, do to keep life on track. Domestic labour has huge financial ramifications but largely falls outside economic accounting, like Gross Domestic Product. In her classic 1983 book, More Work for Mother, Ruth Schwartz Cowan examined home technologies – such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners – and how they fit into women’s ceaseless labour of domestic upkeep. One of her more famous findings was that new housekeeping technologies, which promised to save labour, literally created more work for mother as cleanliness standards rose, leaving women perpetually unable to keep up.

There is no point in keeping the practice of hero-worship that merely changes the cast of heroes without confronting the deeper problems

Nixon, wrong about so many things, also was wrong to point to household appliances as self-evident indicators of American progress. Ironically, Cowan’s work first met with scepticism among male scholars working in the history of technology, whose focus was a male pantheon of inventors: Bell, Morse, Edison, Tesla, Diesel, Shockley, and so on. A renewed focus on maintenance and repair also has implications beyond the gender politics that More Work for Mother brought to light. When they set innovation-obsession to the side, scholars can confront various kinds of low-wage labour performed by many African-Americans, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic minorities. From this perspective, recent struggles over increasing the minimum wage, including for fast food workers, can be seen as arguments for the dignity of being a maintainer." (

Discussion topics

  1. Autonomous vs Systemic Innovation: the Open Development model of Open Source Software communities is particularly appropriate for autonomous innovation, less so for systemic innovation.


  1. Cooperative Innovation at Aventis
  2. Collaborative Innovation at Michelin

Key Books to Read

  1. Democratizing Innovation. Erik von Hippel.
  2. Open Innovation
  3. Innovation Happens Elsewhere

Listen and watch

  1. Clayton Christensen on Open Source and Innovation in Business


  1. Charles Leadbeater on Three Key Policy Reforms for Mass-based Innovation
  2. Ross Dawson on Innovation in Business


  1. Social Innovation Conversations
  2. Open Standards - Open Source - Open Innovation
  3. Direction of Innovation Graph
  4. Collaborative Innovation Networks
  5. Major Sources of Innovation