The art of innovating in partnership with its customers

How to find new ideas? Understand what your customers really want? Stand out from your competitors? Increase the confidence and loyalty of its customers? Do you know the concept of Open Innovation?

Open Innovation : Definition

The concept of open innovation was born in 2003. Henry Chesbrough, then an innovation researcher at Berkeley, popularized the term in his book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology.

Open innovation consists, for a company, of thinking about its innovation and its R&D, no longer from a closed point of view, but by integrating collaborations outside the department dedicated to innovation within employees or even with others. companies or partners.

Contests, hackathon, start-up incubator, the objective of open innovation is to do business together, in order to make the value proposition even more relevant.

Who better than the customer knows what is right for them?

Traditionally, innovation comes from within the company. Two functions take care of it. First and foremost research and development, made up of researchers whose mission is to find new services and products. Next is marketing which submits the results to customers to gauge relevance and buy-in.

This process can also be carried out in reverse: marketing observes its customers, studies them, segments them, questions them and research and development launches into the creation of goods and services likely to meet these new expectations.

This logic is based on the principle that the creative power is inside the company. To this end, management is committed to recruiting people duly trained in these methods. Customers then have two options: whether or not to subscribe to the new goods or services designed by the company.

Few companies, especially those that have been around for decades or that have a visionary corporate culture (Apple, Google, etc.) are able to create a new need. Are you running out of inspiration? So here’s a new approach: make your clients work.

Different from the traditional approach, the principle of co-creativity suggests that companies make their clients, until now passive, actors. This new strategy is based on 3 basic principles which can be differentiated or, ultimately, combined.

Solicit customer feedback in real time

 Under the influence of web 2.0, consumer behavior is changing. Used to forums and discussion groups, they like to share, give their points of view and be heard.

Better informed, more connected, the latter no longer hesitate to express their opinions on goods and services recently purchased by evaluating them, via the internet, often on shopping sites (Darty, Rue du commerce, Amazon, etc.) which escape the public eye. scope of action of the companies directly concerned.

Contrary to what Henri Ford said in his day, « People can choose any color for the Ford T, as long as it’s black, » the days of a company taxing its products are over.

Few of the companies have adopted these new behaviors, except for some, such as Décathlon. Recently purchaser of a product purchased within this brand, you have the possibility to give it a note on a scale from 1 (very bad) to 5 (excellent), to write comments (what you liked, what disappointed you) and recommend it.

Involving customers also makes it possible to identify dysfunctions and to identify improvements more easily and quickly.

Building with its customers

Beyond soliciting opinions, some companies have gone further in the art of making their customers work by simply asking them to suggest ideas for improvement. This is notably the case of Dell, which wished to reclaim the relationship with its customers, following an unprecedented drop in the satisfaction rate in 2005. In addition to adopting the previous principle, Dell implemented, in February 2007, IdeaStorm. The principle is simple: ask clients to post ideas, write down ideas posted by other clients, retain the most popular and respond to them. In 1 year, customers submitted 8,859 ideas, 616,638 votes and 66,682 comments.

This system allowed them not only to apply about 20 ideas they hadn’t thought of, but also to better understand what was important to their clients. For example, most did not want « demos » or gadgets that clogged up RAM (although it is commonly accepted in this industry that the value of a computer is proportional to the number of programs provided). From this also arose the installation of older versions of Microsoft (XP rather than Vista).

Lego allows Internet users to present a construction project of a model just like Auchan, which allows anyone who wants to submit an idea for a new product. In both cases, the project is subject to validation by a community which decides on the follow-up to be given. When the opinion is favorable, the product project is put into production and then launched on the market. In a different way, the authors of the ideas are then paid.

Share experiences with customers

Always in the logic of « who is best placed for … », the identification of innovations can be facilitated by the creation of communities linked to the product or service offered. In a particularly individualistic and consumer-oriented society, the company may find it very beneficial to establish a permanent dialogue with its customers. The goal of this principle is no longer to test a product but to share an experience with its customers.

Nike has understood this very well. She has established a new philosophy: starting from the experiences of running individuals in order to bring into the company the desires, pleasures experienced by the end users of their products. In addition to the quality of the shoe, runners love to listen to music. They also appreciate having information about their performance. In 2006, Nike developed in partnership with Apple an application on Iphone (or Ipod) which allows the runner to obtain information on the duration, the distance covered, the broken records (desires) while listening to music (pleasure). .

In addition, Nike is at the origin of communities of runners on Facebook which allows it to be aware of the needs and expectations of runners, whether they are customers or not elsewhere. Décatlhon also regularly calls on customers, professional and semi-amateur athletes to test their prototypes in order to identify their feelings and make changes to their products.

Adopting co-creativity increases the reputation of the company

While this new model is largely starting to demonstrate its relevance and profitability, it is above all underpinned by a new state of mind centered around two fundamental values: authenticity and sharing. The relationship with customers is changed. It is therefore important to make some internal adjustments, from a structural (customer service, research and development, etc.), systemic (engagement platforms, website, etc.) and cultural (good ideas can come from there) point of view. ‘outside).


If you are convinced of this approach, all you have to do now is:

– submit your goods and services to the opinions of your customers via your website.

– create an internet platform dedicated to suggestions of ideas and improvements from your customers.

– give life to a community in order to share the experiences of your customers in order to better understand their expectations and strengthen the links that must unite you.

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