Rembrandts in the playroom

Last year, in a piece for The Age, I wrote about what appeared to be a change at the Lego company as to how they received user innovations.

That article talked about the Lego Factory concept that had users design new lego sets for a share of the royalties. This was a good example of user-based innovation as described by MIT’s Eric von Hippel in his book Democratizing Innovation.

It turns out that that was just the tip of the iceberg according to February’s Wired. User-based innovation has appeared to have infiltrated the whole innovation process at Lego.

2 thoughts on “Rembrandts in the playroom”

  1. Joshua, I think that your audience would really benefit from hearing your views on the very contentious business method patent debate. As you know, the State Street case opened the door to so-called business “process” and business “method” patents, with many thousands now awarded in the US. The most popular example is probably the “one-click” patent, which, if I recall correctly, is/was being contested by Barnes & Noble. The Australian Patent Office (along with most other overseas patent offices) has yet to make its position clear on business method patents. Despite this, the number of applications claiming business method innovations has increased exponentially. I think that there needs to be a serious debate about the relative merits of protecting business process/method innovations in the context of the default position of only granting monopolies over genuine technological innovations. I recall that there is a recently formed consortium of leading academic and professional lights that have bandied together to place pressure on what they see as the risks associated with IP extending to the traditionally unconventional realms of business processes and software. The European Patent Office has also been vehemently criticised for its purportedly lax stance on software patents, of which it has awarded thousands in recent years. Your thoughts would be appreciated. The critical issue here is obviously the “test” applied to define inventiveness.


  2. Hi, Josh:

    Things are progressing interestingly in Govenments as well as firms.
    In February, 2005 “Strengthening user-driven innovation and knowledge diffusion” became an official priority of the Danish government! Their policy document said: The Government will develop a particular program for the so-called user-driven innovation. Danish companies build their ability to change on knowledge which comes from many different sources and Danish companies may have specific capabilities when it comes to creating successes based on an effective interplay between companies and users”…etc.
    – Source: Nye Mal Regerings Grundlag, VK Regeringen II, February, 2005

    Last week the Danish Economics Ministry gave my colleagues at Copenhagen Business School a grant for a trial program for diffusion of user-centered innovation techniques to Danish companies.

    This week people from the Nordic Council of Ministers emailed to say they want to hear about what is up too. Exciting times all around – things may finally be broadly shifting towards a new innovation paradigm!

    Best, Eric (von Hippel)


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