Chapter 7
Product Development by Self-Organized Virtual Communities


Successful open-source software projects, crowdsourcing efforts, and open encyclopedias have shown that the innovation capabilities of loosely-connected masses of people can, under certain circumstances, transcend the capabilities of traditional hierarchical organizations. Examples such as Linux, Apache, Innocentive and Wikipedia epitomize the emergence of the paradigm of community-based product innovation. In this new paradigm, products are developed in a bottom-up manner by self-organized virtual communities, as opposed to traditional hierarchical organizations. While self-organized communities have resulted in successful information-based products such as software and encyclopedias, there is limited knowledge to answer the following question: How can complex systems be effectively engineered by self-organized communities of self-directed individuals? The fundamental challenge from the standpoint of realizing complex engineered systems is the sociotechnical nature of activities and contributions of independent individuals on interdependent aspects of a complex product. In this chapter, the authors present some of the research challenges, and their research efforts towards addressing these challenges.

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