New ways to engage customers in co-designing your company's future - a weblog to complement the book, Outside Innovation, by Patty Seybold
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.
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.
LEAD CUSTOMERS AND LEAD USERS
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.
HOW DO YOU WIN IN 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.
It came as no surprise that Steve Ballmer is “retiring” as CEO of
Microsoft. The board had no choice but to show him the door. Microsoft’s
performance has been terrible. The company has consistently missed
capitalizing on all the major technology waves since the PC OS, with the
exception of gaming. Even worse: Under Ballmer’s watch Microsoft has
lost the trust and loyalty of enterprise and business customers as well
as consumers. Putting Steven Elop in charge of Microsoft would be a big
mistake, although it’s a temptation, since the company’s current
challenge is gaining share on mobile devices. Attracting a strong female
tech CEO might garner some PR, and it might counter Ballmer’s
testosterone-driven “crush the enemy” ethos. But it’s not going to
revitalize Microsoft’s culture. There’s only one person who can
restore Microsoft and set the company back on the right path. And that’s
obvious: Bill Gates. Let’s hope that BillG is ready to come back to
rebuild the culture, win back customers’ trust, and come up with mobile
networked solutions that customers (business and consumers) actually
want to make part of their lives.
I am currently the member of a community advisory group put together by our local hospital management. The purpose of the group is to provide input into the “transition” from being a full-service hospital to being a walk-in urgent care center and physical and occupational therapy center. This group is a perfect example of how NOT to do a customer advisory group. Here are all the things they are doing wrong. Use this as a checklist to make sure you are not falling into the same traps:
Don't form an advisory group to provide advice AFTER you’ve already made up your mind on what service/product changes you’re making. Instead, form the group 12 months before you plan to introduce service and product changes.
When I read that Jeff Bezos had bought the venerable Washington Post newspaper from the Graham family in the same week that John Henry, owner of the Red Sox, bought the Boston Globe, it definitely got my attention.
I could (and probably should) write about how Bezos’ instincts for interactive marketing and content delivery will help the Post continue its evolution into the digital age. But I won’t. What interests me more about this particular acquisition is the possibility of Bezos taking on our broken political processes by owning the ink in D.C. If Jeff Bezos had bought a newspaper in Seattle, I would have considered it the act of a patron of journalism. But I’m hoping that there’s more to it than that.
When I wrote about the Globe's amazing coverage of the Boston
Marathon bombing, I was really impressed with the reporting, but also
with the editorial team's use of social media to help them in their
round the clock coverage. The Globe used social media to correct
misinformation, to gather tips from citizen journalists, and to
communicate in real time with the millions of concerned people around
the globe. See: Boston Globe Masters Social Media in a Crisis.
At that time, the newspaper was for sale, and had been for some
times. The New York Times had bought the Globe from the family who had
owned it for a long time. But the Times wasn't willing or able to invest
to keep this amazing and innovative team going.
One of the things that the Globe has going for it--more than many
other papers--is the fanaticism of its local sports fans -- as well as
those of us who no longer live in Boston, but are scattered all over the
After writing that case study, I started thinking about the best buyers for the Boston Globe. In my blog post, "Who Should Buy the Boston Globe?",
all of my top candidates were local and passionate about Boston culture
and would be equally passionate about preserving and amplifying the
quality of the Globe's journalism. John Henry, the owner of the Boston
Red Sox, was one of my top choices back in April. I'm SO glad that he
stepped up to the plate. I believe this is both an emotional and a sound
Today's metropolitan newspapers have a real challenge in finding a
business model that keeps them profitable. But the Globe's current
editorial team and local managers have shown themselves to be truly
innovative, scrappy, and hard-working. They are an amazing team. And now
they'll be run by an executive team that knows how to nurture talent.
Edward Snowden has slipped out of the Moscow airport to a hide-away
somewhere in Russia. I wish him well. I also hope he can remain safe
from assassins and would-be persecutors and extraditors.
Edward Snowden is a hero to me. He is a young man who has given up
his freedoms and his home, family, and country in order to alert us to
the fact that our government has unleashed warrantless electronic
surveillance on all of our electronic communications. This is not
trivial. We can’t just fix a few lines of code or pass a new law. That’s
why Ed Snowden made the sacrifice he did. There are trillions of
terabytes of your information and mine that are already captured,
analyzed and stored away for future use (or abuse).
Snowden has passed the baton to Glenn Greenwald, a young American
columnist at the Guardian, who is carefully disseminating the
information that Snowden entrusted to him. Greenwald was scheduled to
testify in Washington D.C. yesterday, on July 31st 2013, via Skype. But
President Obama was afraid of what would happen, so he called a
conflicting meeting for all Democrats. At the same time, James Clapper,
Director of National Intelligence, provided newly declassified documents
to selected members of Congress to rebut the Snowden/Greenwald
assertions. But, not appeased, Obama called a special meeting in the
Oval Office with Democratic and Republican leaders and Intelligence
officials. The problem is that the party leaders are beholden to their
corporate paymasters—the many corporations who profit from the huge
multi-billion dollar surveillance industry.
Here’s my take on what Snowden’s leaks actually mean to us: