An interesting new article in the New York Times suggests we need to change our understanding regarding where our innovations come from. But even the language chosen in the article indicates how far we need to go to reshape the paradigm we use to understand innovation. For instance, their use of producer-innovation vs. consumer-innovation: if consumers are innovating and then sharing their innovations with others who implement those innovations themselves, thereby creating a do-it-yourself network, are they really best labeled as consumers? Can we only be a producer if we do it for profit? Isn’t the distinction really profit-driven production vs. personal-production?
More than finding new languages to label innovators, I believe this article most strongly indicates is a critical need to consider how we equip this grassroots innovation. The article alludes to the collaborative nature of innovation and we need to intentionally design community spaces that support both the creation of innovation and also the diffusion of that innovation in community. We also need to resource such spaces, including with high speed broadband that supports fast uploads as well as downloads if community is to become not innovators and producers directly instead of just a consumer of products developed and delivered by a for-profit entity. Most importantly, it is critical that this support be extended to everyone, not just those in affluent communities or those in University towns. Economically distressed urban and rural communities must also have opportunities to participate or we will loose out on harnessing the creativity that exists in every corner of our nation.