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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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    « MIT's Smart Mobility Project Featured at TEDx Boston | Main | It Takes an ARU Student to Change a Village! »

    August 14, 2009


    Scott Jordan

    I'd like to address rjnerd's comment.

    While there are certainly similarities and (no pun intended) parallels, there are many differences between old-timey timesharing and this newfangled cloudy stuff.

    o I can already, as a novice user and in the space of a few minutes, create a fully-functioning virtual machine in the cloud that looks and acts just like a server. Using's service, I don't even have to install and configure my software stack. A software venture I might've ginned up with hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of industrial-strength, high-uptime rack hardware in 1999 can now be implemented on Amazon EC2 for a pittance.

    o I can already, as a novice user and in the space of a few minutes, establish a huge server installation in the cloud, performing massively parallel Hadoop database and processing operations. This was, in fact, done by an enterprising New York Times technician to convert 4 TB of archival resources into web-ready .pdfs into 11 million .pdfs overnight... for $240.

    And so on. The difference is that timesharing the old-timey way was inflexible and costly and proprietary and localized. Creating applications and infrastructure that customers could access and utilize was Just Not Done. Cloud computing is as flexible as a PC, as powerful as a supercomputer, almost incredibly cheap, instantly available, and accessible to folks around the world, wherever there are bright ideas, and wherever there are customers. It's a crucible for innovation in the way that traditional timeshared computing hasn't been since its dawning days.

    Munish K Gupta

    I fully agree, exciting time are ahead for us, with devices becoming smarter and always on, data accesible from anywhere and anytime, collaboration with fellow user's - will make us all more connected. Also, it will lead/create a divide between have and have not's. Access to information will become one big differentiator in the new digital world.

    Thanks for opening up my vocabulary to "semantic publishing". Unfortunately, your link into the entry in Wikipedia tends to suggest that we're really early in that technology. (I've left comments on the discussion page, and presume that Wikipedia moderators will figure out whether those links should be corrected or deleted).

    There isn't an entry in Wikipedia for "semantic tagging", so I tried Google, without getting much enlightenment. I understand the basics of the semantic web from a technical perspective; I'm just trying to figure out if I should change my behaviour in some way to prepare for this future trend.


    Why do we need a snazzy new term "cloud computing" for something that has for decades (until now) has been called "timesharing".

    The display is snazzier than the VT-52 that used to grace my sunroom, the modem is many orders of magnitude faster than my old Vadic, and the editor is less functional (but prettier) than the emacs I used to use, but the architecture, and security issues haven't changed.

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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