Innovation and Co-Creation at Nokia Beta Labs

July 14, 2008

At least since publication of the Cluetrain Manifesto, with its basic point that markets are conversations, the importance of customers, online and off — but especially those online, to innovation gained widespread recognition. Pointing out the importance of customer communities to sustaining innovation is not exactly a new insight. In recent years the term co-creation emerged to describe the process, whether applied to established companies or start-ups. However, understanding what leads customers to engage in co-creation is important. A story at Nokia Conversations points to a recent study sponsored by Nokia Beta Labs that offers a profile of the customers active in their community, framing the relationship as follows:

While on one side it seems cheap to release unfinished goods and ask for help. But at the same time, it’s amazing to involve eager customers who not only make the product even better than if we did it alone, but are all lined up to take the product they helped make… Read the rest of this entry »

How Not to Build a Customer Community

May 15, 2008

I’ve discussed the importance of customer communities to innovation, customer experience, and customer dialogue as an antidote to self-orientation by companies. David Weinberger recently posted about the Community 2.0 conference, pointing out the Starbucks suggestion box as a good example of customer community. David also pointed approvingly to the arms-length participation of Tivo in the independent forum,, speaking to the point that communities of customers often form on their own.

Coincidentally, I received an email recently soliciting me to join a community of Best Buy customers. I’m not an especially enthusiastic customer of Best Buy, but since CompUSA closed its doors in St. Louis, most of my electronic purchases are at Best Buy. The first thing I took note of in the invitation was its blatant point that Best Buy is selecting members for its community. The email stated:

If you are selected to join the online community, you will discuss and share opinions on a variety of topics, react to questions posed by Best Buy and provide insight into your lifestyle. In addition, you will build rewarding friendships with other members, and receive periodic rewards in exchange for your participation. This is a unique opportunity for you to share your thoughts and ideas with Best Buy – only about three hundred people will be chosen.

To see if you qualify, please click on the link below to complete a 10-minute questionnaire.

The email solicitation sparked my curiosity and I clicked on the links to check out the survey it requires you to complete before learning whether you qualify. At the end of a lengthy sequence of questions, I learned that I just don’t fit into their community plans. Probably because I didn’t answer all the questions, such as what is your family income and other fairly personal items. It seems obvious to me that Best Buy doesn’t really want a community. Rather, they are selecting people for the equivalent of an online focus group representing one marketing segment. I’d suggest Best Buy rethink its strategy.

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Open Innovation at Procter & Gamble

March 26, 2006

Yesterday I received my copy of the Working Knowledge series from Harvard Business School. Larry Huston and Nabil Sakkab, both executives for P&G., wrote one of the articles, “P&G’s New Innovation Model.” The authors note that, by the year 2000, the challenge for P&G of growing organically by 4 to 6 percent each year meant the equivalent of building a $4+ billion business annually. They note that P&G was able to meet those top-line growth challenges in the past by building global research facilities and retaining the world’s best talent. Yet, the authors indicate that by the year 2000 P&G recognized it could not support the necessary growth using the “invent-it-ourselves” model, what I’ve previously termed self-oriented innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

Museums and Folksonomies

February 2, 2006

A folksonomy results from distinct ways of organizing cultural categories developed from the tags, keywords, people use to describe specific content, or services, on the web. The emphasis in folksonomies is on organizing data, not making friends. As Ellyssa Kroski notes, a key difference between Flickr, 43Things, and, when compared to LinkedIn and Friendster, is that the former are focused on organizing data from individual users for the user public, with social relationships arising as users share and seek out others of like mind. The approach is attracting numerous efforts to make accessing information needed to find things easier. I recently came across The Art Museum Community Cataloging Project, called Steve for short. It is an effort to use folksonomies to help visitors find art in museums. Read the rest of this entry »

Customer Experience Management vs. Self-Orientation

January 3, 2006

“The best companies find ways to tune in to customers’ voices every day,” The Three “Ds” of Customer Experience

Focusing on how to engage customers in dialogue, how to converse with customers is among the greatest challenges, and opportunities, facing companies today. Conversing with customers requires a focus on their experience with existing products and services as well as the design of new ones. It means developing business processes to deliver products and services that are not self-oriented, but customer-oriented; not inside-out, but outside-in.

Customer Experience Management (CEM) is a term used by many people to describe the methods for developing customer-orientation instead of self-orientation in business processes. CEM is one of those terms offering something to lots of different people. As a result, it is sometimes confused with the very services it claims to offer management advice on applying. A recent series of posts on LivePath provide an interesting discussion on what makes CEM different from CRM, User Experience Design, and Experiential Marketing. If you employ these buzz words in describing the services your company offers, I strongly encourage a close reading of these posts by Leigh Duncan. Although I might quibble with some of the distinctions made within each functional area of CEM that Leigh outlines, the overall strategy for making sense of what CEM offers is sound.

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Customer Communities and Innovation

November 8, 2005

Innovation is taking on mantra status among companies looking for a competitive edge in the markets. You know the topic has currency when a publication like Business Week dedicates a website to it. Companies increasingly recognize that innovation is key to remaining competitive in the market, maintaining profitable customer relationships, and delivering a good experience. Historically, companies met the challenge to innovate by growing their own research and development organizations. While R&D organizations continue in their importance to a company’s innovation process, executive management recently began taking note that the initiative to innovate and improve products and services is not limited to its own staff. Innovation comes from near and far in the market, from employees as well as customers. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Innovation, Self-orientation, and Customer Dialogue

November 1, 2005

Booz, Allen, Hamilton recently reported on their Global Innovation 1000 research in “Money Isn’t Everything.” We briefly mentioned the report here. However, the findings are significant enough that an indepth discussion is needed.

So, why do I think the findings of the research are significant? Read the rest of this entry »