Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Keeping innovation fresh – 9: involving and connecting to the marketplace

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 12, 2012

This is my ninth installment in a series on innovation, and more specifically on serial innovation and the development of ongoing new sources of unique value propositions within an organization (see Business Strategy and Operations – 2, postings 243, 246 and 248-253 for parts 1-8.) My focus in this series has been on businesses that include within their larger organization an innovation center that would create New that could be fed into its marketable product design, production, marketing and sales systems. I have been discussing these two sides to the overall organization and approaches to connecting them. And up to now, all emphasis has been on strictly in-house sourced innovation.

One of the ongoing themes I have been developing and discussing throughout this blog has been that businesses neither exist in nor function in a vacuum, and that the context they have to work in is tremendously enriched in potential sources of knowledge and insight. That includes:

• Knowledge and insight and rich troves of best practices information that might come from supply chain partner businesses,
• From the marketplace and from insight into the needs of customers and end-users,
• From similar businesses and from your direct competition,
• And even from businesses facing similar challenges but in the context of even very different industries.

One established but still rapidly evolving and forming element to this diversity of resources is the crowd, and in this I cite earlier postings such as:

Crowd Sourcing and the Opening Up of Open Innovation as included in Business Strategy and Operations and
• My series, Crowd Sourcing, Open Innovation and Open Organization (in Social Networking and Business as postings 44-46 with more same-topic postings following).

My goal in this posting is to discuss how crowd sourcing could effectively fit into this model. And I start out by directly acknowledging the potential for conflicts of interest that this approach poses here. On the one hand, outside sources of knowledge and insight, grounded in the marketplace can offer tremendous value. On the other, bringing in and involving outside participants can hold very real due diligence risks. The crowd might offer value to the specific businesses and organizations that it connects with and interacts with but any information shared through this process, and in either direction – from the crowd or from the business, will by definition become public knowledge. And this is where crowd sourcing can become challenging: knowing what to share and under what circumstances and in what ways and through what channels.

I coined a term: emergent unique value proposition in my first installment of an earlier series (see Some Thoughts on Identifying Potential Marketplaces and Customers in the Face of Novelty and Innovation at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 as postings 233 and scattered following.) An emergent unique value proposition is a value proposition that when effectively marketed becomes the basis for a new and unique blue ocean strategy. But as previously noted, the more novel and disruptive an innovation, the less likely it is that its inventors will even know what their target demographics or marketplace might be, for developing, marketing and selling their new creations to. Disruptive and emergent innovations frequently find their first real marketplace foothold and acceptance in new and emergent, and even disruptively innovative users and customer demographics.

• Tapping into the crowd can be essential for taking chance out of finding the right customers, and both for fine tuning the innovation into a marketable product that will meet their needs, and for reaching out to the right people who would buy if offered the right products.
• But you do not want to give away your innovative advantage to your competition through your efforts to identify who would want it.
• Know what features and qualities of your invention are its true sources of innovation and safeguard that and particularly where they could be used as a roadmap to duplicate what you have to offer that would be unique and of unique value.
• Know what features and qualities you can publically share word about and both in identifying your target markets and in reaching out to market your innovation to them – and with products that specifically meet their needs.

There is a saying that the devil is in the details and that applies here, when moving these general precepts from principle to practice. I am going to turn in my next series installment to the issues of patent and trade secret approaches for safeguarding exclusivity, as means of managing and limiting risk in this. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.)

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