February 28, 2007
I am David Jeggle, working as an innovation consultant in Berlin, Germany. BrainReactions and my company, called Avenue, do similar things - so we met up last summer to exchange best practices, tips and tricks, and a monthly skype conference keeps us both updated on new stuff going on and generating new ideas for both sides of the Atlantic ocean :-). Having this partnership we are now able to host web brainstormings with people from different walks of life and even nations - which gives us a good advantage especially when working for international organizations. If you know some German, check out my blog www.ideentower.de. Enough talking - let’s get to Customer Driven Innovation and my best practice report:
What this article is about:
- Why it is worth it to include customers into the innovation process
- How did we do with 30 women generating ideas for a mail order catalogue and what methods we used
- How to get customers engaged
- How to detail ideas with customers
I have read a lot in the past about customer driven innovation and it is our daily business to conduct innovation workshops with people from all walks of life. Some companies have included in their internal workshops outsiders like employees of partner companies or one another’s customers. For years we have been recommending to have more customers in these workshops, but a lot of them are reluctant, fearing the possible loss of know-how. AND: A lot of assumptions are circling about these kind of workshops — “nothing new will be developed!” or “they will only tell us, what will not work anyway !” (and so on) are common statements whenever recommending customer support to develop new ideas.
I just came back from a workshop with 30 female clients of a mailorder company (Versandhandel). It was a full-day workshop with existing and former customers. It was very interesting to see how much involvement the customers showed — everyone arriving well ahead of starting time and not wanting the workshop to end. They really felt very committed to the company and were highly motivated. To get “the standard ideas and complaints” off their mind, we started with an open space where everyone had the possibility to express her opinion what is running smooth and what should need some improvement within the existing service.
After a short introduction on creativity and brainstorming and some energizing games we had two brainstorming sessions, generating around 250 ideas for the fictional mailorder company where everything is possible. Though the clients did not have to worry about implementing the ideas it was hard to keep them away from evaluating and judging the ideas within the idea generation.
In the next step we gave the clients the possibility to vote on the ideas in two different clusters:
- Ideas which are interesting but reflect incremental change, or have been implemented by others already
- Ideas which are totally new and would make this mailorder company to something special
This two point voting method gives those ideas a chance that normally would not be even looked at. AND: On some ideas you will have different opinions as people perceive things differently.
In a third step, we detailed the ideas in small groups, using questions such as:
- How would this idea look like exactly when implemented?
- What is so special about this idea?
- What should not happen with the idea?
- Would you be attracted by this idea? (Positive points & Minus points)
With the last point you have to have in mind, that a lot of innovations were not really seen as such by customers, so you have to be a little careful about that. Who thought of people running around the woods with sticks would be such a trend. Not one customer might have anticipated the Nordic Walking trend. But you definitely can use these workshops to get some good consumer insights and to understand their needs and wants (sometimes you may have to “drill down” a bit).
Result: It doesn’t take much to drive customer innovation: A lot of ideas that the mailorder company had generated beforehand and had perceived as great ideas, were declined by the customers. And: In addition, the mailorder company got (especially in side-discussions and during lunch) a lot of feedback on services and products and a deeper look into what customers really want. At the end of the day, customers showed high overall satisfaction and the relationship between them and the company got even closer. The key to success was to put atmosphere and fun first. We had chosen an excellent location with excellent food, and added a lot of activities and exercises to keep the group at a high level of energy during the whole day. AND: As I was, apart from the marketing director of the mailorder company, the only male in the room, during lunch I had the slight feeling to know now, how women think. .-))