When I say that innovation is being democratized, I mean that users of products and services--both firms and individual consumers--are increasingly able to innovate for themselves. User-centered innovation processes offer great advantages over the manufacturer-centric innovation development systems that have been the mainstay of commerce for hundreds of years. Users that innovate can develop exactly what they want, rather than relying on manufacturers to act as their (often very imperfect) agents. Moreover, individual users do not have to develop everything they need on their own: they can benefit from innovations developed and freely shared by others.
The user-centered innovation process just illustrated is in sharp contrast to the traditional model, in which products and services are developed by manufacturers in a closed way, the manufacturers using patents, copyrights, and other protections to prevent imitators from free riding on their innovation investments. In this traditional model, a user's only role is to have needs, which manufacturers then identify and fill by designing and producing new products. The manufacturer-centric model does fit some fields and conditions. However, a growing body of empirical work shows that users are the first to develop many and perhaps most new industrial and consumer products. Further, the contribution of users is growing steadily larger as a result of continuing advances in computer and communications capabilities.
In this book I explain in detail how the emerging process of user-centric, democratized innovation works. I also explain how innovation by users provides a very necessary complement to and feedstock for manufacturer innovation.
This notion of users as solely the provider of "needs" or "requirements" pervades the manufacturing and services industries. Yes, users have needs, but the new approach is to give such users the tools they need to easily and affordably customize generic products and services to meet their own needs. By making the user the key designer we transcend the dichotomy between user and maker.
This applies directly to the relationship between the IT organization and the business it serves. ITOs usually do a terrible job of initially meeting the needs and requirements of the business, much less keeping up with them. Instead, the ITO should focus on providing users the open-ended tools for creating their own solutions.