Customer-driven innovation

Laura Morris

When it comes to generating breakthrough innovation, traditional market research methods are dead in the water (at least, that is the consensus among those in charge of innovation at some of the world's leading global companies, think Lego, Cable & Wireless, AOL, Adobe, and so on).

At an international conference on innovation in London in March, this was hotly debated by speakers and delegates, who concluded that to succeed and come up with sustainable and profitable NPD, companies must treat customers as partners in innovation. It no longer cuts it to have a one-way research 'dialogue', with customers only involved when a prototype is ready, or a concept needs testing.

Further, in this new paradigm, innovation is no longer the preserve of internal R&D departments. Customers are positively invited inside organisations to act as co-developers of exciting new products and services. This is called 'open innovation' – a case of total customer immersion in the development process, whereby customers are genuinely seen as stake-holders in developing ingenious new innovations and are rewarded, either financially or otherwise.