Loughborough University
RevisedThesis-B530588-Defeo.pdf (5.46 MB)

Online communities and open systems of product innovation: Models, metrics, and analysis

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posted on 2024-01-25, 13:06 authored by Christian Defeo

Organisations must foster innovation to survive. But how can any manufacturing firm build and maintain a steady pipeline of new products? Discussion and the free sharing of ideas are significant means of creating new products; ideas are intrinsically collaborative, communal, and additive.

Hitherto, it has been challenging to catalogue and measure innovation-creating conversations; this thesis demonstrates that two measures, conversation density, which shows the frequency of information exchange between individuals, and information classification, that is, the use of Artificial Intelligence to categorise the content of conversations, in conjunction with the recording of completed projects, can provide useful metrics of innovative behaviours which previously eluded quantification. Case studies to provide these measures include the process of the invention of the lightning rod in the 18th century, and online communities. Online communities, including element14.com, have provided spaces for ideation, product design, and prototype testing.

It is proposed that the statistics arising conversation density and information classification could be made available via a “barometer”, thereby enabling firms to gain a clearer idea of innovative behaviours occurring via its conversations. These measures might also gauge the appropriateness of interventions, including competitions, to stimulate desired behaviours to produce product ideas, as well as measure return on investment.



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


Loughborough University

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© Christian Joseph DeFeo

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en


Jennifer Harding ; Diana Segura-Velandia ; Robert Wood

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  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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