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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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    « Google TV: Will It Spur More and Better User-Generated Content? | Main | Success Stories from Girls in Africa Acting as Change Agents »

    September 13, 2010


    Glenn Friesen

    I have a feeling that these customer support issues from Dell will soon be a thing of the past. In part, because of analysis and feedback (like this) helping to bring "edge case" issues to their attention.

    I think you're right about how many organizations have "a lot of silos among [their] small but nimble divisions." I suspect that such problems are evolutionary (in tall organizations) and exacerbated by the rapid speed of change across markets and customer demands. But of course, this is the reality today -- and a reality that must be addressed for businesses to succeed in the even faster-paced and niche-segmented landscapes of tomorrow.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking read!

    Glenn Friesen


    Dell does have problems related with their Customer Support and everything.

    They are not focusing where they should be.

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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