Design innovation without production?

In a chapter of the P2P Manifesto, entitled How far can peer production be extended?, it is argued that, wherever design can be separated from production, peer to peer based design process can emerge, leading to a kind of ‘built-only’ capitalism.

The discussion below stresses that design is inextricably linked to a production process, and cannot be separated in such a way.

The link between innovation and industrial production

“over the long run, can invention and design be separated from production? That question is rarely asked today. The debate instead centers on the loss of well-paying factory jobs and on the swelling trade deficit in manufactured goods. When the linkage does come up, the answer is surprisingly affirmative: Yes, invention and production are intertwined.

“Most innovation does not come from some disembodied laboratory,” said Stephen S. Cohen, co-director of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy at the University of California, Berkeley. “In order to innovate in what you make, you have to be pretty good at making it — and we are losing that ability.”…

Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the United States Business and Industry Council, argues that in this country, import penetration is rising faster in core industries like machine-tool building than it is in other countries. And these are the industries that are, or should be, centers of innovation and invention.”

1 Comment Design innovation without production?

  1. Avatargeorge dafermos

    Hello Michel,

    Thanks for the very interesting link. By the way, the full-text article is available here:

    From what I gathered, their argument is not exactly that design cannot be separated from production, but rather that it shouldn’t be for the sake of long-term (regional/national) innovation. But I felt there was a second argument latent within the first, and slightly different, that innovation invariably has a strong basis in the ability to get things done (rather than just think or design how they should be done), which is reminiscent of Schumpeter’s view of innovation…..and casts a different light upon the discussion, for if real innovation consists equally in both the underlying idea and its implementation, then, theoretically, it does not make any sense to separate the thinkers from the doers….

    Is the separation of the doers from the thinkers having a negative or positive effect upon innovation? Though I would be inclined to side with the former answer, mostly for theoretical reasons, I could also see merit in the latter, if only for practical reasons, as in the separation of the *legislative* from the *executive*, for example). What do you think?

    That said, I cannot see how the trend toward decoupling design from production can be reversed.

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