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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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    « Apple's iPhone: Raising the Bar | Main | There’s a Train Crash A-Coming | confused of calcutta »

    January 25, 2007


    Graham Hill


    Take a look at Acumen Fund venture capital outfit

    Tip of the hat to Experientia

    Graham Hill

    Patty Seybold

    Thanks for this great link! And the mixed metaphors...

    I am currently writing from rural Uganda where I am engaged in supporting community development work. You're right--it's a great way to spot the lead users..

    I'll be posting on my Ugandan experiences shortly...


    p.s. Yes, I have now enabled HTML editing in comments... however, Typepad makes you choose between "auto-URL" conversion and limited HTML editing.. I'm presuming that it will still be easy to add quick links.



    Take a look at what Anil Gupta and his Honey Bee Network is doing to seek out innovation in Indian communities. (Tip of the hat to Nellie Lide's New Persuasion blog at

    I believe this is a very valid way of going out and actively seeking innovations in the places where they are most likely to be found.

    Sort of Toyota's 'Genchi Genbutsu' meets John Hagel's 'edge workers' on Stuart Kauffman's innovation fitness landscape (to mix three metaphors together).

    This is a great way around the problem of not knowing who our lead-uers are. Sometimes you have to actively search out for those elusive lead users.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    PS. Why don't you enable HTML for comments. It would enrich the feedback enormously

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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