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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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    « How to Design a Customer-Centric Technology Architecture (for Business Leaders and Geeks) | Main | Facebook: Does Mark Zuckerberg Care about Customers' Privacy? »

    October 02, 2010


    David Lance

    Some historians think Edison's greatest invention was the Menlo Park, New Jersey R&D lab.* He recruited the best technical minds to live in a boarding house across the street from this lab and proceeded to lead many all-night work sessions there.

    They worked together, brainstormed together, and innovated at a pace unlike any group had ever done before. (And they probably perfected the lightbulb, on that Sprengel vacuum pump at the left of the photo, for purely selfish motives.)

    When a single person wants to achieve a lofty goal - they move forward one idea at a time. When a group wants to achieve a similar goal, they can elect to throw all their ideas into a central arena for reflection, and then select the best one. That way the ideas are better, the strides are longer and more frequent, the distance covered greater, inertia is thrown off earlier, and momentum is stronger.

    How much better the process when a Steve Jobs or a Thomas Alva Edison is forming the vision in the morning, and working with a competent team to execute it at night.


    And speaking of Randall Stross and Edison, here, in my opinion, is the best book about Edison:

    Howard Davis

    I just noticed that though Scott Jordan writes highly of Edison, he makes the mistake of repeating the falsity that Edison did not invent the light bulb. I have been thinking about this a lot since lately there has been an effort to denigrate Edison and the charge that he did not invent the incandescent light bulb is one of the most often written. If you read the 1880 patent you will find that Edison claimed a carbon filament of "high resistance". The high resistance was the key that no one else had found. It was because of this insight that he was able to do what a Royal British inquiry led by Lord Kelvin had claimed was impossible. All incandescent light bulbs are still based upon this principle. Yes, there were light bulbs before Edison, but they were not based upon this principle and were not incandescent light bulbs by the definition we have today. Except for the substitution of tungsten (again of high resistance) for the carbon filament successfully used for almost thirty years. the incandescent light bulb has remained essentially the same. The best book on Edison's invention of the incandescent bulb that I have read is:

    The Incandescent Light: A Review of Its Invention and Application (Hardcover)
    by Floyd A. Lewis (Author), et al.

    Patricia Seybold

    Several of you have pointed out this timely article from Sunday New York Times, What Steve Jobs Learned in the Wilderness, by Randall Stross--
    In which he says, "the Jobs of the mid-1980s probably never could have made Apple what it is today if he hadn’t embarked on a torment-filled business odyssey."

    Patricia Seybold

    Thanks for the arithmetic lesson, Victor! Good catch!



    "In his remarkable 44-year career to-date"

    Steve Jobs is 55 and didn't start Apple until he was 21. If we count only since then, his career spans 34 years. If we include his first high school summer job at HP, it spans ~40 years, if Wikipedia is accurate

    jp solyom

    To innovate, build your business on the edge of chaos. Nobody can predict where the next disruptive innovation will come from.

    Jobs and Apple have created quality tools that empower millions of individuals to explore their own creativity - and - provide them with venues to put their creations in front of enormous audiences at a very low cost. It is this empowerment that allows the many sparks of genius to grow and reach the critical mass necessary for sustainability.

    Jobs is the Levi Strauss of the modern gold rush. You can't know where the next vein of gold will be discovered... But you do know what the miners will need on their voyage for getting there...

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