Hybrid Models of Innovation

Theory development is often best served by simplicity, such as in the three polar models of innovation Baldwin and I describe. In contrast, the world is often hybrid. A hybrid innovation model combines elements of the three polar models analyzed in previous sections of this chapter. Hybrids of the three basic models thrive in the real world. This is because the architecture of a design intended to achieve a certain function can often take a number of forms suited to development by combinations of our three basic models. For example, producers or free innovators can choose to modularize a product architecture into a mix of large components viable for development by producers only, plus many smaller components viable for development by single free innovators or open collaborative innovation projects (Baldwin and Clark 2000). As illustration, consider that Intel develops expensive and complex central processing unit (cpu) chips for computers, a design task that today may be viable for producers only. Complementary smaller software and hardware design opportunities are then viable for profit-seeking producers, and/or for free innovators, working singly or collaboratively.

Large indivisible design projects, which have traditionally been in the producer-only zone of figure 3.3, may become hybrids as a result of re-architecting and (often) modularization of traditional, producer- centered design approaches. For example, the costs of clinical trials of new drugs are commonly argued to be so high that only a producer innovator, buttressed by strong intellectual property protection for the drug to be tested, will find this development task viable. Increasingly, however, we are learning how to subdivide clinical trials—a large cost traditionally borne by drug producers—into elements suitable for voluntary, unpaid participation by collaborating individuals. This possibility has recently been illustrated in a trial of the effects of lithium on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis carried out by ALS patients themselves with the support of a website developed by the firm PatientsLikeMe (Wicks, Vaughan, Massagli, and Heywood 2011).

 
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