Von Hippel, Eric 1941–

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Von Hippel, Eric 1941–

PERSONAL: Born August 27, 1941. Education: Harvard College, B.A., 1964; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, S.M., 1966; Carnegie Mellon University, Ph.D., 1974.

ADDRESSES: Office—Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 50 Memorial Dr., E52-556, Cambridge, MA 02139; fax: 617-253-2660. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Writer, economist, consultant, entrepreneur, and educator. Graphic Sciences, Inc., cofounder and manager of research and development, 1966–69; McKinsey and Company, consultant, 1970–72; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, assistant professor, 1973–79, associate professor, 1979–85, professor of management of innovation and entrepreneurship, 1998–. Canadian Institute of Advanced Research, fellow, 1995–97; University of New South Wales (Australia), Australian Graduate School of Management, Sir Walter Scott Distinguished Professor, 1997–98.

AWARDS, HONORS: Honorary Ph.D., Ludwig-Maximillians Universität, 2004.


The Sources of Innovation, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Democratizing Innovation, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

Contributor to books, including Research on Technological Innovation, Management, and Policy, edited by Richard S. Rosenbloom, JAI Press (Greenwich, CT), 1983; Marketing in an Electronic Age, edited by Robert D. Buzzell, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 1985; Advances in Telecommunications Management, edited by M. Saghafi and A. Gupta, JAI Press (Greenwich, CT), 1990; and Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software, edited by J. Feller, B. Fitzgerald, S. Hissam, and K. Lakhani, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of Technology Transfer, Organization Science, Research Policy, Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Management Science, Technology and Culture, Journal of Technology Transfer, Journal of Marketing, Industrial Marketing Management, and Science & Public Policy. Member of editorial boards for Research Policy, Organization Science, British Journal of Management, International Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, International Journal of Management of Innovation and Technology, and Journal für Betriebswirtschaft.

SIDELIGHTS: Eric von Hippel is an author, economist, and educator. As a scholar and researcher, he is interested in techniques and patterns in the sources of innovation that drive American manufacturing and other areas of business. He "develops new processes to improve the fuzzy front end of the innovation process, the end where ideas for breakthrough new products and services are developed," noted a biographer on the Sloan School of Management Web site. Von Hippel is the developer and major proponent of the theory of user innovation, the notion that product consumers and end-users, rather than manufacturers and R & D departments, are responsible for a considerable amount of new innovation.

Von Hippel explores this idea in depth in The Sources of Innovation. Here he "presents an easily understood, straightforward, and useful thesis concerning the sources of innovation in manufacturing industries," explained Richard F. Hirsh in the Business History Review. The author explores how "users and suppliers of equipment often discover a need and then provide the inventive genius themselves," Hirsh noted. In areas such as scientific instrumentation, printed circuit boards, plastics engineering, and industrial vehicle manufacturing, end users often encounter problems that existing materials and equipment do not solve. In such cases, it is common for users to modify existing equipment, or create something entirely new, that serves their purposes. In this way, consumers are directly involved in the design process, and the jury-rigged equipment can serve as an important source of information for manufacturers looking to better serve customer needs. Manufacturers can respond to their customers by adapting their home-made equipment into commercial versions, but von Hippel suggests that end-users would benefit from early involvement in the design and production processes. An Inc. reviewer called the book a "path-breaking study." F.M. Scherer, writing in Science, observed: "The author's analysis is stimulating and for the most part persuasive."

Carrying the theme from his earlier book forward, in Democratizing Innovation von Hippel looks at the ways in which customers are becoming more and more willing to involve themselves in the production process that results in the goods they use. In short, they are helping design the products that they most want to buy, and von Hippel sees this trend as a revolution in manufacturing that the shortsighted will run from and the progressive will embrace. Von Hippel stresses the critical importance of listening to the needs and desires of consumers and of involving customers in the creation and design process wherever possible. Gary S. Vasilash, writing in Automotive Design & Production, commented: "This is a book that should be required reading for every person in every automotive company who is involved in product development, be they marketers or engineers, manufacturers or managers. It is that important."



Automotive Design & Production, August, 2005, Gary S. Vasilash, "Unconventional Innovation," review of Democratizing Innovation, p. 8.

Business History Review, summer, 1989, Richard F. Hirsh, review of The Sources of Innovation, p. 452.

Futurist, November-December, 2005, review of Democratizing Innovation, p. 56.

Inc., August, 1988, review of The Sources of Innovation, p. 20.

Science, March 17, 1989, F.M. Scherer, review of The Sources of Innovation, p. 1497.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology Web site, http://web.mit.edu/ (March 13, 2006), curriculum vitae of Eric von Hippel.

Sloan School of Management Web site, http://sloancf.mit.edu/ (March 13, 2006), biography of Eric von Hippel.

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