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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 design and innovation management researcher and industry practitioner with an interest in external disruptive hacker innovation activities and its impacts on design trajectories within firms. He has a background in strategic innovation and design management methodologies; paired with industry experience in high tech new product development, R&D prototyping and web technology development for new hardware and software platforms.