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Innovation Process Benefits: The Journey as Reward

What motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects? And how can companies that sponsor such projects better attract individuals from outside the organization to participate? Christina Raasch of the Technische UniversitÌ_t MÌ_nchen and Eric von Hippel of the MIT Sloan School of Management and MIT School of Engineering investigate the ways that individuals can gain significant benefits from participating in an innovation process "Ò and the implications of that for organizations.

"Problem solving is known to e valued by participants for the process itself," Raasch and von Hippel write. "Crossword puzzles provide a good example. Crossword aficionados can spend hours working hard to solve a crossword puzzle. Their reward is entirely in the fun of solving, not in the solution found."

Innovation process benefits are similar: They include the pure enjoyment from creating the innovation, helping others (altruism), learning from creating the innovation and certain reputational gains.

What does that mean for innovation project sponsors? Raasch and von Hippel describe two innovation projects that illustrate aspects of innovation process benefits: a crowdsourcing site created by Swarovski and the Foldit game developed by scientific researchers. The authors also provide a detailed framework for understanding innovators' motivations and their implications.

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