U4 GI Ideas from consumers Ideas from consumers Before you read Can you think of some recent innovative products which are on the market? Reading Read the article from the Financial Times and answer the questions. How ordinary people generate great ideas Simon London Working out where great ideas come from is one of the big puzzles of the modern management. Corporate research laboratories and in-house product development groups are only part of the answer. Innovative products and processes can come from start-ups, competitors, university campuses and ordinary employees. Eric von Hippel, a professor of management of innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has spent three decades studying the role played by customers in shaping new products. The results are nicely summarised in Democratizing Innovation, a useful book on what he calls 'user-centered innovation'. For example, people who do extreme sports such as windsurfing or ice-climbing, play a significant role in the development of equipment which is then mass-produced by manufacturers. Surgical equipment companies are often led towards new products by surgeons who operate using the equipment. Users are often the first to develop many, and perhaps most, new industrial and commercial products. For example, 3M, the industrial products group, has programmes in place to collect ideas generated by key users. Von Hippel found that these products at 3M were likely to be more innovative, enjoy higher market share, have greater potential to develop into an entire product line. Mass-producing products developed by key users is only one possible approach. Alternatives include selling toolkits with which customers can build their own creations. For example, International Flavors & Fragrances supplies customers with the tools to design their own food flavours. Users themselves develop the products. These examples revolutionise the traditional division of labour between producer and consumer. Democratizing Innovation shows that the flow of ideas and expertise is more complex. FINANCIAL TIMES 1. True or false ? a) Most new ideas come from in-house research. b) It took Eric von Hippel three years to write his book. c) People who go windsurfing have helped to create new products. d) Surgeons are unlikely to be involved in product development. e) 3M users consumers' ideas to create new products. f) Von Hippel believes that user-led products are often better than those developed inside a company. g) Some companies use toolkits to design their products. h) The division of labour between product and consumer has changed. U4 GI Ideas from consumers 2. Choose the correct alternative for the word in italics. a) A puzzle ( line 2) is something which is i) difficult to understand. ii) very interesting. b) A decade (line 15) is a period of i) five years. ii) ten years. c) A key user (line 44) is i) an important consumer. ii) the market leader. d) If you revolutionise something (line 54), you i) modify it a little. ii) change it completely. e) If something is complex (line 59), it is quite i) complicated. ii) big. Over to you Work in small groups and think of a product you would like to improve. Discuss how you can improve it, explaining: why you think it needs changing what idea(s) you have what benefits the change(s) will bring.