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Innovative User Communities & Crowdsourcing

User Innovation Research Initative Vienna Logo

The User Innovation Research Initiative is a research program which aims to deepen our understanding of the phenomenon of user innovation and is hosted by the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Vienna University of Economics & Business.

Users form Communities

Users often form networks and informal groups - with highly innovative output. What can be learned from this?

  • Innovating users do not operate in isolation. They often organize themselves with like-minded users in some type of community or network. The Internet has facilitated interaction between geographically dispersed users, and consequently the importance of user communities has increased dramatically (for an overview, see von Hippel 2005).

  • In these communities, users often share ideas and knowledge, work together on innovative solutions, provide feedback, and assist each other. In this way, the limits of the individual user’s capabilities can be overcome in a highly efficient and effective way.

  • Examples include open-source software communities where users jointly develop software (e.g., Linux, Apache, Perl), Wikipedia, or innovative brand communities such as the Lego, Nike or Stata communities.

  • Despite growing interest in the phenomenon of collective user innovation, there is still a limited understanding of how these communities form, how they work, and how their potential can be used by firms.


In this line of research, we aim to extend our knowledge on how collective user innovation works and to explore how companies can harness the creative potential of innovative communities. The research issues we address here include the following:

  • Motivation of users to participate in innovative communities: What are the motives that drive users to start engaging in community activities? What motivates users to continue these activities?

  • Individual innovative activities and community support: How do communities support innovative activities? Why do users assist and help each other? How does this impact the commercial attractiveness of user innovation?

  • Open community innovation and commercialization: How does the community system help entrepreneurs develop and market user innovations? How are communities affected by this commercialization process? 

Key Publications and Working Papers

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Lettl, Christopher, Roiser, Susanne, Türtscher, Philipp. 2014. Does God Play Dice? Randomness vs. Deterministic Explanations of Crowdsourcing Success. Working Paper.

  • Bauer, Julia, Franke, Nikolaus, Türtscher, Philipp. 2014. The Seven IP Commandments of a Crowdsourcing Community: How Norms-Based IP Systems Overcome Imitation Problems. Working Paper.

  • Keinz, Peter, Franke, Nikolaus. 2014. Effectiveness and downside risks of employing firm-controlled agents to calm down online firestorms. Working Paper

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Pötz, Marion, Schreier, Martin. 2014. Integrating problem solvers from analogous markets in new product ideation. Management Science (MS) 60 (4): 1063-1081.

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Keinz, Peter, Klausberger, Katharina. 2013. "Does This Sound Like a Fair Deal?" Antecedents and Consequences of Fairness Expectations in the Individual's Decision to Participate in Firm Innovation. Organization Science 24 (5): 1495-1516

  • Keinz, Peter, Prügl, Reinhard. 2010. A user community-based approach to leveraging technological competences: An exploratory case study of a technology start-up from MIT. Creativity and Innovation Management, Vol. 19 (3), 269-289.

  • Hienerth, Christoph, Lettl, Christopher. 2010. Exploring how peer communities enable lead user innovations to become the industry standard: Community pull effects. The Journal of Product Innovation Management (forthcoming).

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Klausberger, Katharina. 2009. The role of perceived fairness in company-centred crowdsourcing communities. Working Paper, Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Oberhauser, Stefan, Schreier, Martin. 2007. Finding the needle in the haystack: identifying the most attractive user ideas in virtual communities. Working Paper, Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.

  • Prügl, Reinhard, Schreier, Martin. 2006. Learning from leading-edge customers at The Sims: Opening up the innovation process using toolkits. R&D Management, Vol. 36 (3), 237-250

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Shah, Sonali. 2003. How Communities Support Innovative Activities: An Exploration of Assistance and Sharing Among End-Users. Research Policy, Vol. 32 (1), 157-178


We have presented our research in this area at several international conferences, including:

  • Academy of Management (Annual Conference)

  • International Product Development Management Conference

  • Open and User Innovation Society Meeting

  • R&D Management Conference

Funded by

This initative is funded by: