Real Business Innovation: How Companies Can Draw Innovation From Large Customer Communities

Oliver Skopec, Thomas Krüger


This article will explain why open innovation forums offer a real alternative to common market research methods like brainstorming, qualitative interviews and large quantitative customer surveys. Open innovations forums offer a comparatively inexpensive way to reach a large number of customers who can express their ideas in the most open and creative manner, while the process maintains a relatively high representativeness. Furthermore, both the complexity and the lack of a preference structure of open innovation forums are being explored by examining these factors both from a theoretical and practical perspective. It is then proposed, that with our approach, can these shortcomings be eliminated. Based on Ulwick’s (2005) outcome driven innovation concept, that categorizes and summarizes customer ideas into unique tasks (jobs) and specific outcomes, we have developed a way to analyze and interpret data in forums. While Ulwick uses in-depth qualitative interviews to generate relevant content to uncover the specific needs of customers, we have turned this process around, by using a modified form of his methodology to analyze already existing content in forums. The result of our analysis will in turn be sent back to the open innovation forum and will be rated in terms of importance and satisfaction by the participating customers. Thus, we are not only making the complex amalgamation of ideas in these forums useful but also quantitatively testable in terms of their importance and their ability to satisfy customer needs. Thus our approach not only renders valuable ideas from the customer perspective but also a relatively high significance due to a large representative sample as well as a secondary data collection process. Ultimately, this process will achieve very clear and distinct recommendations for new product development combining the best aspects of brainstorming (namely creativity), large customer surveys (namely representativeness) and qualitative interviews (namely relevance and clarity of the customer voice).