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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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    « When Customers Take You to Unexpected Places | Main | Sun Cloud & Oracle Cloud to Combine »

    April 16, 2009


    Michael Saunby

    I'm not a client, but I follow your blog and I'm on blog catchup using Google Reader right now.

    Yours is an excellent idea but it seems Google have got there already.

    (Albeit after you posted the idea)

    It does work - I've created an entry already.

    For you and I with our reasonably distinctive names it should work fine. But what about folks with names like John Smith, or Michael Jackson? How is that going to work? Will they invent new super-hero like handles - "customer-co-des-grl", or include fragments of their job description and location - "John Smith Computer Scientist, London" ???

    David Ing (

    Loose coupling is an interesting design point. People forget that the Internet means INTERnet, which is loose coupling by design.

    I selectively follow a very few people on Twitter -- they need to have very high signal-to-noise -- then a few more people on Friendfeed (who I try to read within a few days), and then subscribe to a whole bunch more in a feed reader (FeedDemon) that I eventually get to. I move people up and down these scales of intimacy, depending on whether I'm learning anything or not.

    In managing my own personal web domains, however, I'm probably in the minority of people who worry about aggregating web profiles. Since Friendfeed aggregation is a high bar, and Facebook participation is a low bar, an interesting correlative test could be to ask how many people have signed up to use OpenID. If a person doesn't see the value in a single web signon, I doubt that they would see the value in a consolidated web profile ... or at least don't find it important enough to take action.

    P.S. I've recently redeveloped the style sheet at to surface Friendfeed rather than Twitter, since Friendfeed aggregates my tweets. People who use feed readers probably don't care, but there's a lot of people don't yet understand open sharing of web activity.

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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