Tightening the Loop between Free Innovators and Producers

As the scale of voluntary and unpaid design effort in the household sector becomes clear, both free innovators and commercial project sponsors are increasingly competing to "tighten the loop” between themselves and free innovators to obtain a larger share of that valuable resource. In this chapter, I will first explain how producers are learning to support free innovators in ways that benefit themselves but not their rivals. Next, I will explore how lower-cost pathways to commercialization are becoming available to household sector innovators. Finally, I will discuss how, via crowdsourcing, free innovators and producers are both learning to more effectively recruit free innovation labor from the household sector.

Visualizing the Loop

Recall that there are two pathways involving information and resource transfers between the free innovation paradigm and the producer innovation paradigm. First, innovation designs created by free innovators may be transferred from actors in the free innovation paradigm to actors in the producer innovation paradigm for commercial production and diffusion. Second, producers may transfer tools and other types of support to actors in the free innovation paradigm to assist free innovation development efforts. As we saw in our discussion of modeling findings in chapter 6, these two types of transfer between paradigms are related. That is, innovation support provided by producers can affect the rate and direction of free innovators' efforts, and as a consequence affect the transfer of commercially relevant designs from free innovators to producers. Due to these interactions, we can visualize the arrows between the two paradigms as forming a loop interconnecting activities within each, as is shown in figure 7.1.

Figure 7.1

Tightening the loop between free innovators and producers (dark horizontal arrows).

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