Open Source Software and the Private-Collective Model of Innovation

Topics: Open source, Eric von Hippel, Innovation Pages: 10 (3205 words) Published: January 11, 2013
Open source and private -collective model of innovation |1

Having written the paper on the open source software development as an example of private-collective innovation model Eric von Hippel and Georg von Krogh opened the door to a new area of study for organisation scientists. The paper has achieved widespread recognition amongst fellow theorists and has been used as a basis for further investigation of and expanding the topic. Additionally, it has prompted practical perspectives. However, some limitations deserve attention to be paid, in particular the issues of applicability in other fields. Hence, the aim of the essay is to examine key concepts introduced in the paper, analyse consequence of the findings as well as other theorists’ contribution to the subject. Subsequently, emphasising companies’ motivational concerns for implementing the model will be explored, later highlighting some limitations of the pater. Finally, in the conclusion the essay will endeavour to identify the position of the paper in terms of current innovation issues.


Having analysed the paper, I would argue that it has completed several objectives set by the authors. Firstly, they outlined the nature of the open source software development described by the authors as a “major cultural economic phenomenon” [Von Hippel and Von Krogh, 2003]; new model of innovation as opposite to the existing conformist models, which in perspective might change the way in which the innovations are shaped. Proving their belief the authors have provided two specific empirical examples of ex isting open source projects such as Apache Server Software1 and Fetchmail2, which, I believe, are well selected and, when developed, clearly illustrate the theoretical concept.


Apache Server Software – is used on Web server computers that host Web pages and provide appropriate content as requested by Internet browsers. Such computers are the backbone of the Internet-based World Wide Web infrastructure. The server software evolved into Apache in the space of four years and after many modifications and improvements contributed by many users. Apache has become the most popular Web server software on the Internet, garnering many industry awards for excellence. 2

Fetchmail - An Internet E-mail Utility Program. Fetchmail is an Internet e-mail utility program that “fetches” your e-mail from central servers to your local computer. The open source project to develop, maintain, and improve this program was led by Eric Raymond.

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Secondly, the above facts were summarised to exemplify the private -collective model of innovation as a combination of two earlier existed models: private investment and collective action model.
According to the theorists, private investment model implies innovations as a process of knowledge production through exchanging the private investments to appropriation of private returns. The access of general public to knowledge represents a threat to such returns and therefore is prevented through intellectual property law mechanisms. While, subsequent contributors’ motivation is no doubts beneficial for innovation, the undermining point is that society suffers from underdevelopment as the innovations are privately manipulated [Von Hippel and Von Krogh, 2003].

The collective action model of innovations, in contrary is based on the principals of nonexcludability and nonrivalrausness of knowledge [Stiglitz, 2009]. It entails the provision of knowledge as a public good through revealing and “unconditional supplying it to a common pool” [Von Hippel and Von Krogh, 2003]. Free accessibility of knowledge excludes social loss. However, as everyone can use the knowledge produced by a handful of contributors the risk of choosing free-riding instead of contributing is high. This causes some motivational issues, e.g....
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