Democratic Design Opportunities
Von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation, with a combination of tight case studies and analyses of factors shaping the actions of innovators, working alone or in groups, is quite relevant to transdisciplinary designers as we start to chart our course for the future. In particular, it is helpful in thinking about how to identify and frame up opportunities where we can have impact. It also helps to sketch out the social system needed to bring an innovation to fruition, based on social need, expertise, politics, economic context, and productive skills.
The social system through which innovation takes place is pertinent to our work today. We might benefit from considering, to identify areas in which we can make positive contributions, the areas in which we have lead user expertise to leverage. Alternatively, if we feel pulled towards projects in areas in which we’re unfamiliar, understanding who the lead users are and how to find and involve them is critical, as Von Hippel makes clear.
We see this in the example of windsurfing equipment innovators in this text. Further, this story illustrates the potential for productivity in innovation afforded by the ability to combine design skills with the kind of lead user knowledge, originating from experience, passion and experimental practice. The windsurfers in question were able to invent for their sport because of this combination of attributes—which raises the question, in what context might we each do the same as transdisciplinary designers?
The ability to understand, experiment with, and create or map out a system or path to facilitating the construction or realization of our innovation is a big boon; something to take advantage of as best we can.