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Customers will replace R&D as the main source of new ideas

According to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, titled The next decade of Technology in Business,  business leaders believe their companies customers will replace R&D as the main source of new product and service ideas by 2020.

customers are mains source of new product and service ideasI’m surprised the percentage isn’t higher.

The pattern is evident, organizations believe social media technologies open up communication channels with their customers. This helps businesses develop a more strategic relationship with their customers by co-creating products and services.

But…

Employee born ideas are important too

What this chart also shows is how ideas coming from employees are believed to be of lower value. I would like to see ideas coming from employees given the same or as much importance as coming from customers and online communities.

To innovate today, we have to include customers, employees and partners. We can’t exclude one from the others. This is critical because today, money follows ideas. And ideas are not found in work cultures with low expectations. They are found in social organizations that leverage the knowledge of their employees, customers and partners.

Social Media in the Enterprise (aka Social Business) gives employees more power:

“The widespread use of social networking has resulted in employees having a greater influence in a company’s success than ever before. Internally, employees can now share their thoughts openly via tools like blogs, wikis and microblogging with people across all levels of the org chart. This is culture changing.”

What is the critical point for me, is that we have spent so much time talking about the voice of the customer that we forgot about the voice of the employee.

What do you think, have employees lost their voice in favor of the customer?

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  • Slimfairview

    Given to understand that market influence and technology will allow for the customisation of products giving companies with the best technology, business model, and flexibility the opportunity to customise, say, sneakers or–in the rest of the athletic market–customised t-shirts, sports jerseys, hats, and so on.  Slim

  • http://twitter.com/reinventioninc re:invention, inc.

    Good post. In today’s world, customers and employees are not mutually exclusive. In many cases, your employees are your customers. Employees are also often the closest conduit to your customers — so tap their wisdom. Front line employees – the hard working folks behind the counter, on the phone, in the cloud, and walking the floor – can share critical insights about customer needs/wants/expectations and they can be your best brand advocates.

    • http://www.game-changer.net Jorge Barba

      “Customers and employees are not mutually exclusive. In many cases, your employees are your customers.”

      Great point.

      Is there any company that you can single out as understanding this principle?

      Cheers,

      Jorge

      • http://twitter.com/reinventioninc re:invention, inc.

        A short list could be culled from Fortune Magazine’s 2012 “Best Companies to Work For” honorees. In the technology space: Apple. Google. Microsoft. Adobe. Cisco. Intuit. Non-tech companies? Whole Foods Market. General Mills. Employee engagement can be best measured by how positively employees think, feel, and rave about a company as well as how proactively they strive to achieve company goals. Innovation works inside-out – employee engagement and customer engagement. A well-designed, winning Intranet is as important as external social media activation.

  • http://barthox.tumblr.com/ Barthox

    Is this really due to Social Media?

    I have the feeling that the results would have been similar 10 years ago (thus comparing 2000 and 2010) … 

    Business Leaders intuitively know that Product Innovation should come from the Market, hence these results … but few of them understand that they should organize their company to leverage what the Market says it needs. 
    And since universities keep spiiting out traditionally trained engineers like a machine-gun, R&D department keep innovating based on their traditional approach of “let’s see how I (i.e. me, myself and I) can make this thing better. I’m a bad-ass engineer, I will come up with really cool features”

    And don’t take me wrong, i have no grudge agaisnt engineers …. ;o)

  • Konstantin Ignatyev

    It is very unlikely that innovation can come from customers: improvements – yet, that is for sure, but true innovation is very unlikely.

    In short: request for an automobile could never come from horse buggy buyer. For more please see “Innovator’s dilemma” book by Christensen for more details. 

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  • Vrdnbrgt

    To my mind comes a memory to Henry Ford, after the invention of the “car”:
    Of I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have instructed me to get them a faster horse.

  • Barthox

    The Ford quote is valid for disruptive innovation …

    But you can’t come up with something this disruptive every other month …

    When you have an idea, a technology or a product … You’d better go to prospects and see how well your solution gives an appropriate response to their need …

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