Monday, December 30, 2013

Customer-Centric Innovation

One of the key characteristics of digital business is customer centricity.

One of the key characteristics of digital business is customer centricity. Thus, the customer is absolutely a vital part of the overall innovation process. Customer-centric innovation accomplishes far more than incremental product improvement, it can also build evolutionary business models, as well as path-breaking products and services that establish new categories, and even internal process improvements arise from customer-centric innovation. 

Customer insight: The customer (including prospects) should be studied and observed. Deep understanding of the user through empathy and observation with the innovator using a more inductive approach as to what the customer wants to accomplish "next". This involves gaining a deep understanding of the motivational construct of the customer, in order that the innovator can become "anticipatory" of what the customer will likely "want next". Remember innovation is not an invention! It must prove its value in the market. Customers must be willing to pay for this, be it a product, process or service innovation. Thus, customers become an important link in the innovation process. 

Proactive listening: In general, your direct customers may not always know what they want. But for sure they know the issues they face in providing their service to their customers. This is where pro-active listening is very important and becomes vital link in your innovation management effortsIt is not a question of whether the customer is right or not, it is more of whether we are truly and proactively "listening" to their needs, and their customers'. The customer should always be involved, but not be the main or the only driver behind the innovation process. The customer is only one of the stakeholders in the innovation process, certainly an important one but not the final decision maker. As customers don't always know what they want and aren't always the best informed. This is especially the case with revolutionary innovations and most especially when it comes to new technological innovations. That's why it is important to think when talking about innovation, not purely about technological advancements or breakthrough innovations, but also about different propositions, approaches to a problem or new interpretations. These can be achieved with empathy, looking beyond the direct customer problem, wish or request, taking the context of use into account and perhaps by using a wide network of experts to come up with these new propositions. 

Customer-centric innovation management life cycle: When manage innovation life cycle, customer involvement at all stages often elicits highly valuable information. In the innovation process, it is not really about whether the customer is "right." That kind of approach implies that the customer should be placed in a judgmental role, rendering a decision about an idea. Actually, this is not the best way to approach innovation. Instead, customers may not always know the "products" they want, but they clearly understand their needs and pains, so involve them as early as possible in the process. Customers cannot solve your problems, but they can provide insight into their goals, their process, their problems, their context is invaluable

For a customer driven innovation, customers are the major focus for innovation process and accomplishment. Listen to customers and involve them in the innovation process to gain insight and empathy, and then, innovators are to figure out how to solve the puzzle presented by differences between what is verbalized, what is acted out, and what is technically feasible.


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