Innovation has been a big buzz word for almost a decade. Consumers are hungry for the next big thing, wanting to be the first to use or own the latest and greatest innovations—and the media is always hot to find the next story. It’s not a cakewalk, though—creating products or services that are truly innovative and capture the attention of the masses is a difficult feat that requires unique thinking and a keen eye for design. However, we have noticed that one of the most challenging characteristics to implement true innovation is transparency.
In today’s creative culture, developing an open environment where customers are brought into the fold early can push a design from boring to bestseller. By tapping into the customer base, organisations can gather input on what users want or need to make tweaks or adjustments earlier in the product lifecycle. Social media has created a real-time engine for feedback, and consumers are ready to share if companies connect with them in a meaningful way. Fully understanding users and providing them with innovative products that enrich their lives helps a company succeed when the product is released.
Obviously, asking for companies to become more transparent is easier said than done. However, creating a culture of transparency with customers doesn’t have to mean that all of an organisation’s trade secrets or inventive new product features go out the window to competitors. When companies take the time to get to know target customers and test out early product models, trust is built between company and customer. Ultimately, organisations are looking for customers to become brand advocates and transparency helps make this happen. If taken one step further, transparency gives organisations a chance to get creative when solving issues or expanding on particular features.
A few companies excelling at transparency and really taking this the extra mile, are Local Motors (a new, micro-factory car company), and Quirky (a social product development site). Both of these companies are actively having customers participate with the design and sometimes the development process, what the industry is deeming as a more powerful form of crowdsourcing. Take a look at Quirky and Local Motors for a moment.
Quirky has a particularly interesting method of transparency. Users submit product ideas, then the community along with Quirky staff evaluates its market potential, then they build and sell it. It’s a collaborative process that enables the Company’s community to have a say in the product design process, and the user who submits the idea still gets the credit. In a nutshell, they help bring inventions to market. The idea works, as the Company has managed to bring more than 57,000 users into the network and sell products at national retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Another company that is really pushing the boundaries of innovation through user feedback and transparency is Local Motors. Through an open source model, users submit designs or concepts for vehicles which go through competitions, votes and design checks. The final products may be developed or modified with the assistance of the community. These are just two examples of how a platform of transparency can help accelerate innovation and keep a business on the cutting edge.
While innovative design is transforming products and organisations around the world, not every company can be considered an “innovator.” The current leaders in the industry are blazing trails that not only include the evolved design of products, but new ways of sourcing expertise from around the world. While variables in the market will always play into the success of a product, truly innovative design can provide a competitive advantage and implementing transparency and participation early can be a platform to innovative success. How organisations tap into and enable innovative design may shape success for years to come—a true shift in culture has to start between idea conception and production.
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