“Involving customers in the innovation process can add value to new product designs,” writes Michael Schrage, codirector of the MIT Media Lab’s e-Markets Initiative, in Strategy+Business.

“In industry after industry, a shared model for innovation adoption is emerging. The most valuable ‘platforms’ — the tools and technologies used internally to discover, design, and test new products and services — can be creatively and cost-effectively sold or lent to customers, clients, and prospects. Customers get a chance to ‘try before they buy.’ They can adopt and test new ideas and technologies before investing in them. And the purveyors of new technologies rapidly gain insights into the potential value of their wares — insights that might otherwise take years to gather.”

This has lead to a “valuable cultural change: Technological innovators become far more aware of and empathetic to customer needs and constraints.”

The article then continues with a series of examples. Cisco Systems has developed customer design interaction platforms that allow to “conduct collaborative meetings in which prospects literally see and play out the architectural implications of their network priorities”. Procter & Gamble “has begun to share some of its computer modeling and market research techniques with Wal-Mart, Tesco, and other distribution channels.” And the Goldman Sachs derivatives group launched a series of free financial simulators.

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In an analysis of the Schrage article, Renee Hopkins Callahan writes in Corante’s Idea Flow blog that companies could obtain three types of value from such customer co-creation: in addition to the idea value (better design ideas), there is the insight value (a better insight in what customers actually want) and trust value (allowing your customers to co-create with you implies trust and is highly persuasive).

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