(2012-07-31) Schrage Who Do You Want Your Customers To Become

Michael Schrage: Asks Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? To see customers as the assets they really are, the strategic design and marketing question must shift from “What’s the new value of the innovation?” to “What does our innovation really ask customers to become?” and, even better, “Who do we want our customers to become?”

History gives a lot of credence to this “human capital” model of innovation influence. Henry Ford didn’t just facilitate “mass production;” he enabled the human capital of “driving.” George Eastman didn’t just create cheap new cameras and films; he created photographers.

Successful companies have a “vision of the customer future” that matters every bit as much as their vision of their products.

Today’s Web 2.0 network effects business model — where a service becomes more valuable the more people use it — and crowdsourcing represent perfect examples of how smart companies increasingly recognize that their own futures depend on how ingeniously they invest in the future capabilities of their customers. Their continuous innovation is contingent upon their customers’ continuous improvement.

By ignoring or avoiding this “innovator’s ask,” too many organizations are cheating themselves and their customers on getting measurably better returns on their innovation investment.

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