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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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    « THE OUTSIDE INNOVATION IMPERATIVE | Main | Crowdsourcing, Customer-Contributed Content or Lead Customer Innovation »

    September 16, 2006



    All the user-led innovation best practices you noted in the presentations are really informative.Interesting topic.Thanks for the sum-up.

    Kansas Treatment Centers

    Kristen Ross


    Now's the time to sign up and take the lead on innovation!

    The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) is hosting an exclusive consortium focusing on innovation. Registration is currently in progress.

    Some of the top leaders in research and practice will share their thoughts about innovation during SIOP’s third annual Leading Edge Consortium Oct. 26-27 in Kansas City, MO. This is the first ever meeting of, innovation specialists, company executives and applied psychologists focused on the topic of enabling innovation in organizations.

    The consortium, entitled “Enabling Innovation in Organizations,” will examine organizational structures, leadership styles, management practices, cultures, processes, and individual characteristics that help innovation flourish.

    There will be three keynote speakers:
    • Ed Lawler, director of the Center for Effective Organizations and distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California
    • Ingar Skaug, president and group chief executive officer of the global shipping firm Wilh. Wilhelmsen and chairman of the Center for Creative Leadership's board of governors
    • David DiGiulio, a former research and development and human resources executive for Procter & Gamble

    Held at InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza, attendees will enjoy in-depth presentations alongside fun, including breaks, lunch on Friday and Saturday, and receptions on Thursday and Friday evenings. The popular topical dinners are scheduled Friday evening.

    Consortium participants can expect to gain:
    • Sharing ideas on the role of leadership and top management, knowledge transfer, and climate/culture issues relative to innovation
    • Effective strategies for introducing innovative ideas and products that make a difference
    • Provocative ideas emerging from practice and research
    • An exploration of the dark side of creativity and innovation, including how to alleviate the negatives
    • A fresh look at the psychological variables that enable staffing for team and individual creativity

    Go to and click on the Leading Edge Consortium link for more information, including registration details and a full listing of speakers, titles and abstracts. You can also contact SIOP for more information at 419-353-0032. Call for group discount information and ask for communications specialist Kristen Ross.

    Managing the vagaries of innovation – creativity and the process of turning ideas into products and services that add value to an organization – is one of the greatest challenges facing business leaders. Innovation is acknowledged as the fuel for economic growth, and in the modern competitive global marketplace, it is vital to maintaining growth. The organization that doesn’t innovate may very well stagnate.

    Hope to see you in Kansas City!

    Patty Seybold

    I would love to read your comments and take-aways from the Philips/Henry Chesborough and Ken Morse. I loved Henry's book! Really thoughtful and useful! I don't know Ken, but hope to meet him some time in Cambridge!

    Pls. send along a link when your thoughts are available for sharing...



    Florian Komm

    Very interesting topic. We picked it up in your blog. It gives useful insides for the design of business models.



    I am attending an Open Innovation course organised by Philips and tutured by Henry Chesborough (who wrote the Open Innovation book)and MIT's Ken Morse in Eindhoven next week.

    I will feed back some of the learning points from that course as well.

    Graham Hill

    Patty Seybold

    No these were private presentations. But I do have permission from at least one of the presenters to summarize his comments... check back in a couple of days!


    Rafael Sidi

    Thanks for the summary. Are these presentations available publicly?

    Patty Seybold

    Thanks for noticing, Bill...

    One of the participants at this conference that I had the pleasure of meeting in person was Kohei Nishiyama, the founder of Elephant Design, and the designer behind Japanese retailer Muji's customer-led innovation, which I chronicled in my book, Outside Innovation.

    Perhaps you have some additional examples of customer-led innovation from Japan? If so, I'd be grateful for the suggestions!



    It sounds like you had the opportunity to attend a fantastic conference! Thank you so much for sharing a bit of the info you took away from Professor von Hipple and the other participants. I'm looking forward to reading more about this!

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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