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Adaptive Products: Designing for Evolution rough Use - page 28 / 31





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is not however the only way, and is marred by how it places control of a product solely in the hands of a single company. Some businesses stand to benefit from a more open and democratic model that allow for, and even encourage individual people’s involvement. One advantage of this alternative approach is that by watching how people adapt products to new uses companies can gain valuable information about customer needs and potential new markets. This “sticky” information is traditionally very costly to obtain, but is free when they nurture or listen to a product adaptation community. “As information about what users want and need to do becomes more fine- grained, more individually differentiated, and harder to communicate, the incentives grow to shift the locus of innovation closer to them by empowering them,”51 in addition, an open model that legally allows people to modify products can attract new customers. As detailed previously, having the freedom to change a product as needed provides numerous personal benefits and in turn can confer goodwill on the company. Finally, businesses may be forced to adopt an open model to survive. The advent of easy to use software tools and rapid prototyping equipment points towards a decreasing “stickiness” of solution information. If a company is too restrictive concerning how people use and adapt their products this may spur their would-be users to become competitors. Consider that the open source community actively strives to provide functional alternatives to commercial products, without the legal restrictions on modi ication. Moving toward a more open model that encourages user involvement may be the only way to retain customers who are tempted by free and flexible alternatives. Products that cannot evolve are increasingly viewed in a negative light. This is influenced by the contemporary nature of products and society where change is the norm, customization is expected, and the intertwining of products and


Ibid., 170.

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