Customer Innovation Guide: Taking the Fourth Step

Empower Customers to Strut Their Stuff

December 21, 2006

It’s human nature to show off our accomplishments. Encouraging your customers to contribute their ideas, and rewarding them with recognition, lets you use the collective brainpower of your customers to help you innovate. And, while you are eliciting new ideas from customers, you should also be encouraging them to review each others’ contributions. Positive feedback from peers means as much to customer contributors/consultants/guides as do rewards from your company. This guide provides a self assessment to see how far along your company is in empowering your customers to strut their stuff.

Have You Taken the Fourth Step towards Customer-Led Innovation?

In my book, “Outside Innovation: How Your Customers Will Co-Design Your Company’s Future,” we specify the five steps to customer innovation:

  • Identify and Study Lead Customers
  • Provide Customers with Tools to Use to Reach their Desired Outcomes
  • Nurture Customer Communities
  • Empower Customers to Strut Their Stuff
  • Open Up Your Products; Let Customers Engage in Peer Production

For each step, we provide context and a list of activities (methods/behaviors/programs) you should be implementing to reinvent your organizational culture around customer-led innovation. We also provide you with space to complete your self assessment: how well is your organization/division/department/group doing on fulfilling these requirements? We recommend that you identify those activities broken down into three categories (which mirror our Customer Scenario® Mapping methodology):

  • Things “We Can” Do--you already do this activity well.
  • Things “We Will” Do--you have already identified this activity as strategic to your organization, and you have a plan for implementation in place, complete with a budget and delivery date.
  • Things “We Should” Do--you aren’t currently committed to this activity, but you understand that you should investigate it and prioritize its value to your customers and to your organization.

Finally, we provide a place for you to make note of your next steps for each activity. We recommend that you include the name of a person who is to take responsibility for the next action as well as a target deadline for completion of that action.

STEP 4: Empower Customers to Strut Their Stuff
One of the biggest motivators for customer innovation is the boost in self esteem that customers feel when their ideas and insights are acknowledged and presented for everyone to see. That’s why customers love contests--it’s usually not the prize that is the most appealing; it is the title of “winner” that strikes a chord.

Encourage, Acknowledge, Reward

Since it’s human nature for many of us to enjoy showing off, you should encourage your customers to contribute their ideas, designs, creations, and inventions. Acknowledge and reward customers for contributing content, submitting their applications and tools, providing tips and techniques, spotting great new products or trends, answering other customers’ questions, and solving each others’ problems. Remember that recognition for contribution can be a reward in itself.

Use the collective brainpower of your customers to help you organize, filter, and categorize the products and information you offer in ways that make sense to them, and, thus, to others. By enabling customers to share their filters and categories, they become your “guides” and can be heroes to other customers by clarifying the paths through your content and offerings, and offering shortcuts.

Peer Review and Reward

While you are eliciting new product ideas and designs from customers, you should also be ...


Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.