Whilst partaking in innovation seminars at Imperial College London Business School, I wrote a paper relating the innovation literature to ‘outlaw‘ sources of innovation outside firm boundaries and control. This is an area of the literature which is largely unexplored and little is written about, most of which focusses on Lead User theory which involves inviting such user’s into the firm, rather than innovative activities that occur outside of firm control within the realm of generative innovation hackers.


This paper will discuss and relate the literature on innovation with outlaw (non-firm sponsored) innovation sources from lead-user’s or user-innovator’s and the relationship with firms specialising in designing, developing and manufacturing mobile phones. I will discuss literature in context with smartphone manufacturing and software ‘ROM development communities’ (henceforth RDC’s), specifically Google’s Android operating system and XDA Developers community as a source of outlaw innovation in parallel with established firms’ (HTC, Samsung, LG et al.) innovation strategies and some of the challenges faced in harnessing external innovation with internal R&D.

Much of the literature on end or lead-user innovations has focussed on the process of identifying a group of individual innovators and inviting them into the organisation in order to uncover unmet needs ahead of the average user’s requirements for future product development. The literature does not however discuss unsanctioned (or outlaw), but legal, innovation occurring outside firm boundaries in parallel and separate to the firm’s innovation strategy. This has implications for the extent to which current theories can explain how such unofficial innovation sources can be exploited and integrated into a firm’s mainstream value ecosystem.

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Mike Pinder

About Mike Pinder

Mike Pinder is a Senior Innovation Consultant at Board of Innovation, helping global Fortune 500 to innovate like startups from innovation strategy to design thinking, lean startup and business model innovation to create intrapreneurial troublemakers. With 10+ years’ experience guiding executives and project teams, cross-industry in B2B/B2C for clients like GE, ABinBev, ZF, Logitech, ING, Bpost. His research interests center around external hacker innovation communities and their role on design trajectories within large corporates.

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