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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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    « Join Peter Senge and Mwalimu Musheshe at MIT on May 15th! | Main | Interview with Patty Seybold in Idea Connection »

    May 07, 2009



    Thank you for that Deb. It is yet one more example of how completely oblivious most corporations are to their customer's desires. For example, I left the charger for my digital camera with a relative after a recent visit, so I am trying to find out if the local Target has one in stock. I have budgeted $15. That is a crisp five dollar bill, and a crisp ten dollar bill, laying right here on the table - eager to get spent.

    Cash ought to have value in this market.

    I go to So far so good. I find a search field. I type in "Panasonic DMC-FZ5" That ought to be enough. If panasonic had a wit about it, there would be a URL on the camera with all the replacement parts listed. But Panasonic is too dim to have figured that out - even after all this time.

    So I go to Target's web site. And I enter "Panasonic DMC-FZ5" and then I hit a giant stone wall. What is it with corporations and their extreme displeasure with making it easy to buy from them?

    Or to tell them that one bill a month will suffice? Shouldn't the Internet have made all that easy by now? Would it not increase profits?

    Why aren't executives from both Target and Panasonic begging Patty Seybold and her group for the help they desperately need???

    Deb Williams

    I would like to point out a way the Globe can save a little money is in the accounting office. I repeatedly receive a minimum of three invoices a month, this Friday I received 2 invoices for same billing amt and due date. Considering printing, paper, remittance envelopes, postage and personnel to stuff envelopes I think an overhaul in this area could save the Globe some dollars.


    Here is a very important question that the Globe ought to ask me:

    "If we commit to publishing content online, on your cellphone, via television and radio such that you the customer ALWAYS have access, through our publishing mechanism, to the latest breaking news, would you agree to let us go back to delivering your newspaper to you in the afternoons? This would entail a newspaper delivery person breathing a pulse back into your neighborhoods, and representing the Globe to you, our prized customer, with a human interface that has been sorely lacking in our relationship?



    Anshuman Misra

    Enjoyed David Lance's insightful comments. Can we all try and get businesses at crossroads to devise solutions with customers - give the bankers a well deserved break...


    So the basic idea is to give a reader a web interface. This provides a long list of article titles. User scans these and looks briefly at the photos almost exactly like they now scan the titles on each page of a newspaper. We all scan titles and look at the pictures and decide whether or not to read the article.

    This new system transfers that decision making process to the computer monitor. No longer limited by the choices of a single newspaper staff editor, reader can choose titles from twenty newspapers. (Fifty. A hundred.) And they can order from individial, freelance journalists. Maybe groups of independant jounalists whose stuff is so good they make a name for themselves. Market driven. In this paradigm, the reader checks the box for each title they want to read. The cost of those articles are charged to their account, and the articles are printed in that user's customized newspaper.

    The smoothie is just an added bonus - but a worthy one. Who doesn't want a fresh smoothie on the drive in to work? They are healthy and good too! Almost like eating ice cream for breakfast!! So the smoothies stay.

    The busy user/commuter get going to work.

    On car's GPS screen, several "Smoothie Stars" pulsate on the map. They pick one and get directions to it.

    They pull into a parking lot. Cones channel them to a single file line of cars. They notice the electronic receiver mounted on the first cone. This instructs the printer to print their newspaper, and initiates the smoothie order. Approximately three minutes later the car makes it to the other end of the parking lot where an attendant hands the commuter their paper and smoothie and zoom - they are back on the road...

    Patty Seybold

    Wow, Dave!
    What a great riff!! Who says customers can't design new products.. I love it! The custom smoothie with the custom paper!!

    I particularly like your market research suggestions and your ideas about how we/the customers/should get to vote on what investigative research is done...what a good idea!!

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