Customer in charge - illustration by James O'Brian
William C. Taylor, co-author of “Mavericks at Work” has just published a feature on mass customisation in the New York Times business section.

It features examples of John Fluevog Shoes, Jones Soda and Threadless and quotes MIT’s Eric von Hippel:

“Eric von Hippel, head of the innovation and entrepreneurship group at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has studied the effects of ‘lead-user innovation’ in industries from extreme-sports gear to medical equipment.”

“In a time of ever more talented technology enthusiasts, hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers, all connected by Internet-enabled communication, he says, the most intensely engaged users of a product often find new ways to enhance it long before its manufacturer does. Thus, he argues, companies that aspire to stand out in fast-moving markets would be wise to invite their smartest users into the product design process.”

“‘It’s getting cheaper and cheaper for users to innovate on their own,’ Professor von Hippel said. ‘This is not traditional market research — asking customers what they want. This is identifying what your most advanced users are already doing and understanding what their innovations mean for the future of your business.'”

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