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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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    « Great Example of Long Tail Outside Innovation: NYCity Apps | Main | An Amazon/Apple Deal? »

    January 07, 2010


    Patty Seybold

    I wasn't the only one with customer support problems. Now, I'm really glad that I wasn't successful in buying the Nexus One!

    Patty Seybold

    Thanks, Scott! Great analysis as always!!


    Scott Jordan


    I enjoyed your take on the Nexus One intro. For me, the bigger picture disappoints as well. Some random thoughts:

    1) The iPhone, like the Mac, has benefited from a strongly-enforced central vision that governs everything from its user interface to its apps store. Apple's walled-garden paradigm results in a marketing corpus and a user experience which are consistent, coordinated and choreographed. Every incremental effort assists in building the brand. (In the case of the iPhone, which was quite the paradigm-shifter, there was the additional need to enforce security measures and limit impacts on its partners' networks, for example by denying users who want to tether their PCs to their phone, as you can do with even your ancient Blackberry, and by stalling Flash implementation.)

    2) In both OS X and iPhone OS, Apple took a solid open-source OS that was going nowhere (FreeBSD Unix) and turned it into a commercial and technical tour de force that has a unique and compelling persona all its own. The result is a unique and effective hybrid technical and licensing architecture that seems to leverage the best of the open-source and proprietary models.

    3) Now, as exemplified by Grand Central Dispatch and propelled by its newly acquired chipmaking capability (PA Semi) and cloud investments, Apple seems poised to rocket further ahead of the industry in technical capability.

    4) Google, by comparison, certainly could have enforced a central vision when it introduced the Android OS. But they didn't, and their choice of Linux as their solid-open-source-OS-going-nowhere imposed GPL strictures which kept them from effectively corralling the developmental cats. Android immediately suffered fragmentation issues, including software and UI inconsistencies from phone to phone. It falls to the level of blood libel to suggest that Android may be the new Windows Mobile in that regard, but there's truth to that.

    5) Google's Nexus One intro, to my eye, seemed to exhibit a tinge of corporate annoyance to it. It is almost as though Google was saying, "Look, you guys are getting it wrong, this is what we meant this platform to be." And, as you pointed out, their introduction's tactical implementation was... well, kinda lame, with many missed stitches compared to Apple's usual benchmark for such things. There's the risk that users will emerge more confused at the chaos that is Android, and it remains to be seen if leading-by-example is an effective way to battle open-source fragmentation.

    6) Also regrettable is that Nexus One comes so close on the heels of Motorola's well-done Droid intro, precisely the aggressive and ballsy salient that stodgy and staggering company needs to survive. What is Google telegraphing about its commitment to its partners? In this regard, Microsoft's ostentatious spotlighting of its licensees in its Windows 7 roll-outs and Ballmer's CES star-turn is starkly contrasting, and very wise. Competing with one's customers never goes well... and although an Android licensee is hardly a "customer" in the cash-paying sense, the notion is the same. Meanwhile, Microsoft has generally kept its licensing-based and hardware business models pretty well separate: Xbox competes with no OS licensees, ditto for Zune. (And the less said about Sidekick, the better!)

    Bottom line: there's a reason desktop Linux is nowhere today. And I speak as a fan of it. The Nexus One intro leaves me wondering if Google failed to learn some important lessons from Linux's example. And I'm really wondering if Google possesses an amoral corporate culture that is incompatible with collaboration. Between the points I've mentioned above and the fracturing of their once-close relationship with Apple (which, let's face it, looks like it may have included outright poaching by Google), I'm getting a picture of a perilous partner to have in the trenches with you.

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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