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  • What is Outside Innovation?
    It’s when customers lead the design of your business processes, products, services, and business models. It’s when customers roll up their sleeves to co-design their products and your business. It’s when customers attract other customers to build a vital customer-centric ecosystem around your products and services. The good news is that customer-led innovation is one of the most predictably successful innovation processes. The bad news is that many managers and executives don’t yet believe in it. Today, that’s their loss. Ultimately, it may be their downfall.

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      Eric von Hippel coined the term "lead users" to describe a group of both customers and non-customers who are passionate about getting certain things accomplished. They may not know or care about the products or services you offer. But they do care about their project or need. Lead users have already explored innovative ways to get things done. They're usually willing to share their approaches with others.
      I use the term "lead customers" to describe the small percentage of your current customers who are truly innovative. These may not be your most vocal customers, your most profitable customers, or your largest customers. But they are the customers who care deeply about the way in which your products or services could help them achieve something they care about.
      We’ve spent the last 25 years identifying, interviewing, selecting, and grouping customers together to participate in our Customer Scenario® Mapping sessions. Over the years, we’ve learned how to identify the people who will contribute the most to a customer co-design session. These are the same kinds of people you should be recruiting when you set out to harness customer-led innovation.
      You no longer win by having the smartest engineers and scientists; you win by having the smartest customers!
      In more than 25 years of business strategy consulting, we’ve found that customer co-design is a woefully under-used capability.
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    « A Commitment to Complete the Work of Augmenting Human Intelligence | Main | Celebrate the Inauguration Through Service (with your Mom!) »

    January 09, 2009


    Ronni Marshak

    Good point. I didn't mention the company with which I had a bad experience, to be honest, because it's a clothing site for larger sized ladies and my vanity got in the way (I am a full-sized woman, and I guess I should be proud, but I'm human, and want my readers to imagine me as beautiful as they can). The site was, in case you want to check them out. Also,it might have been my mother's teaching of "if you can't say anything nice..." I have no business relationship with Aflac, nor does Patricia Seybold Group. I'm sorry that this made you doubt my veracity. I will take your comment to heart.


    I find it interesting that you neglected to mention the name of the company with which you had a bad experience, but you did mention the good one. Pardon me for being suspicious, but it seems like you should have withheld the name of the good company lest someone thinks you're in bed with them. And you should have mentioned the name of the bad company so that your readers might be saved from going through the same bad experience you did. Why did you choose the logical opposite? On second thought, nevermind. I probably won't be satisfied with your answer anyway. But I do feel other people should be able to read this. Your choice whether or not to censor, of course.

    Ronni Marshak

    Thanks for the Zappos link. It reinforces my belief that companies that treat their customers well also treat their employees well, and vice versa. When everyone is valued, the company has a definite edge in succeeding.


    Great post. It reminded me of a video I recently saw about Zappos. They are an online shoe retailer that is very well known for their good customer service. Here's the link:

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