My Experiences in BUS 358: Innovation, Design, and Prototyping

Essay 6

Customers as Innovators

Stefan Thomke & Eric Von Hippel

  • Listen to what customers want and then respond to meet or exceed needs
  • Equip customers with tools to design and develop their own products
    • “Tool Kits”
    • Less expensive
  • Allow customers to fully understand by “doing”, “trying”
  • Trial-and-error can move more quickly, needs more understood
  • THREE signs you should try customers-as-innovators approach:
    • Market segments shrinking, need many iterations to find solutions, you/competitors use high-quality computer based tools internally
  • Tool Kits must have FOUR capabilities:
    • Enable people to create through a series of design cycles w/ learning and doing, user-friendly (no new language), contain libraries of useful components/modules that are debugged and tested, and contain info on capabilities and limitations of the production process to be used (ability to produce)
  • Satisfies customers better (they know what they want, after all)
  • Designs completed faster
  • Designs manufactured first go-round
  • Do business w/ small customers (previously unable to – money)
  • Better serve larger, preferred customers
  • Use INCENTIVES to induce employees to support the needed mindset to do it
      • FIVE STEPS for customers-to-innovators
        • 1. Develop user-friendly toolkit
        • 2. Increase flexibility of your production processes
        • 3. Carefully select first customers to use the tool kit
        • 4. Evolve tool kit continually and rapidly to satisfy customers
        • 5. Adapt your business processes accordingly

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