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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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    « Give Inspiration for the Holidays! | Main | Customers Want to Help You—and Themselves—Don’t Waste It! »

    January 13, 2012



    The next big thing is WE-commerce, which will materialize as government-owned (partially or wholly) enterprises and/or large private customer-owned mutual corporations.

    It will be interesting to see what the mix looks like in thirty years. I hope large customer-owned mutual corportions win the day, but when I look at society, I realize the caliber of people today probably isn't up to it. They will most likely repeat the failed Soviet experiment of the 20th century instead.

    Patty Seybold

    I agree about "self-organizing".. In the examples I've tracked, the purpose and the goals are very clear.. what's "self-organizing" are the partners who wind up joining in because they have capabilities that customers actually need and value. This is where a CUSTOMER ecosystem varies from a marketing-driven partnership..

    Adi Gaskell

    Hi Patty,

    I think you're pretty much spot on here and this use of social technologies will be a massive part of how companies operate in the next decade.

    One thing I will state however is the importance of defining the purpose of your community at the outset. Whilst self organisation is great once that pricinple is in place, without it it's rare for a community to flourish.

    This is where good community management comes in. They can ensure that both a strong purpose is created at the outset and that the community maintains that focus as it grows and emerges.

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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