This book talks about the trend that emerging with the quick development of technology; with the more empowered individual consumer, or user as called by the author. It talks about the trend that the center of innovation, which is traditionally held in the hand of profit seeking manufacturers, shifts to the general public. It talks about the trend that sharing without repayment is taking the place of seeking for big bucks. It talks about the trend that most business are feeling both the attraction and threat from the shifting power of technology and user participation. It talks about how firms standing on the frontier of this trend are experimenting various of ways taking advantage of the emerging power.
The beginning interesting fact discovered in the research about innovation is that in many area, a lot of people are actually customizing their tools in the process of using for better performance or fitness. These customizations make those consumers no longer simple consumers. They become innovating users.
Another important find from the past research is that users are the most active in the innovation frontier is of similar characteristics. Those users are called "lead users". Several authors have proposed ways to characterize lead user, and try to separate them out from the general population.
The author following buy an analysis why innovating by lead users is a economically rational way of getting things done rather than order from the manufacturer. The key here lies in the incentive, while manufacturer can enjoy the scale of economy due to the large volume of sales it can get by introducing a new product, it suffers from the large fixed cost of setting up the production. However, when talking about the individual innovator, they benefit from updating the current available product with which ever possible and the perfect knowledge about their needs. So, there lies the two economic reason, transaction cost, and information asymmetry.
The user goes far beyond self-satisfying innovating behavior, they share and they join together to discuss and progress. Sometimes, such sharing behavior develop to the formation of innovation community. And, when the development in information technology making all the real time sharing and discussing and social network real, the power of individual is set to change the way innovations are done. However, here lie a question that the author fails to answer, the incentives fo individual sharing for 'nothing'.
To harness this emerging trend and power. A set of infrastructure is needed to faciliting innovators in doing better job more freely. First, the author reexamined the implication of intellectural property laws which was intended for protection of innovation incentives. Researchers now understand that significant private rewards to innovation can exist independent of intellectual property rights grants. Second, user customization tools are also important. Beyond the examples given by the author, there are several new trend, the Google APIs and various other APIs, and the SDK system like Apple SDK. It seems that manufacturers, especially manufacturers of information products are finally getting some clues on how to exploit the user generated market.
The final parts of the book is devoted to some examples and potential research areas. Overall, this book opens the window to a serious treatment for the issue of user innovation. I still remember the cover story for TIME's person of the year for 2006 "You". And as times goes, the power of us is increasing. And it is never late to join in this power to help in build a world that is ours.