Innovation, with a little help from my friends

Magnus Willis

If you had attended any self-respecting brand or business conference during the past 20 years you would doubtless have heard at least one speaker talking animatedly about 'listening to customers' and 'successfully meeting their needs'. This, we were told many times, was the key to success. Somehow this was always portrayed as breaking news: that the grubby culture of 'sales' had been replaced with the shiny new world of 'marketing', and that marketers were now in the vanguard.

Well now we are in the midst of another step-change that will herald a new 'third age', the age of consumer collaboration, where organisations do not just listen to their consumers but embrace them, where they do not just respect their consumers for what they have to say, but for what they represent – as powerful, creative and, importantly, equal stakeholders in the brand. Increasingly it will be the organisations that actively fling their doors open to consumers that will be flying high.