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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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    June 02, 2009


    Mark Price

    Once you have the information your customer would be asking themselves or using to accomplish their tasks -- you also have the "metadata" -- information about what they are using and how often, to better inform product development, customer service, support, etc.

    Good service begets better service...

    Patty Seybold

    You're right, Mark, the trick is figuring out WHICH information needs to be interactive. It's not as simple as hyperlinking everything to everything else. You have to give serious thought to what your customers are trying to DO and therefore, what ancillary information and tools they need to get that done. Are they putting together a bill of materials for a new product? Researching chemical interactions? Or looking for a doctor with the best track record in performing this kind of surgery. The key is to provide links to the information and tools the customer would be asking themselves or using in order to accomplish their tasks.

    Mark Price


    This is a fascinating insight. It seems to me that the challenge is both to have the right customer-centric data and how to present it. Using the tools you described, how can your visionaries more compellingly draw the picture of a customer-centric world using customer-level data?

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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