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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Outside Innovation - Best Mantra for Innovation

“Creating a customer” is the sole purpose of any business that exists globally. Customer and technology are evolving fast and companies are facing an environment of accelerated consolidation in current competitive landscape. Given, rising customer expectation, high pace of innovation, and emergence of new business models, main challenge for companies is strengthening their core business while rapidly scaling their new growth platforms, and developing new operational and organizational strengths for future success. The battle to stay alive in the attention of customers is becoming brutal with every passing day. In this process of evolution, companies need to assess what elements of their current offering need to strengthen and which need to depart. Their have been several ways but the latest addition to it is “Outside Innovation”; a book by Patricia Seybold, who defines outside Innovation as the process of co-designing with involvement of customer.

Though innovation has been always customer centric but today it is “Customer-Made” as well.

Today companies are leaving the whole idea of innovating there businesses to customer directly. Companies are looking forward to create Customer –centric culture that leads to Customer-Led innovation, Customer –Experience transformation and most importantly Customer prioritized Business/IT roadmaps, explains Patricia in her book. So, for instance the Harley Davidson example given below in an article on this blog is an example of Customer – Experience Transformation. The example shows how company is using customer liking of visiting museums to understand their liking and behaviour.

The Indian example of mobile banking is another good example where a bank is involving customer s in an area to define a new business road map for them. If the model of mobile banking tried by EKO India financial services succeeds with their smaller test group, they can then implement it nationally else drop it.

Retail industry is one of the booming industries in India and driving a lot on innovation driven by customer. Retail industry especially Pantaloon retail India Limited effectively benefits by understanding roles taken by customer. Pantaloon is testing a prototype of a convenience store called Big Bazaar Best Deals in Mumbai’s Kandivali suburb. If the pilot programme succeeds, it plans to open such stores nationwide. The store is based on customer insight that ‘people run for best deals’ available in stores. Thus the store will offer only best deals to the customers. If they effectively play around with five customer roles defined by Patricia Seybold in her book then the store can really succeed in very short span.

The idea is to engage so well with lead customers i.e. those who shop at the store that they become ‘Consultants’ to the store, ‘Guide’ people to benefit most from the store and thus act as ‘Contributor’ to sales and work as ‘Promoter’ of the store. Retailers have now started engaging with lead customers and they even reward them for providing these insights.

The diagram, by Patricia in her book, below defines exactly where to capture customer insights in the whole process of customer innovation.

The idea of Co-creation with customers has been very effectively used by internet websites and open source softwares. A classic example is Mozilla Fire fox which keeps updating their product with the help of plugins and add ons designed not only by customer feedback but designed by customer themselves.

There are many such success stories and the scope of creating such success stories is infinite; if Indian companies work with customers they can definitely succeed in this highly competitive environment with very dynamic Indian customer.