Innovation Perspectives – EMC Customer Innovation

by Steve Todd

This is the ninth of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘How should firms collaborate with customers and/or value chain partners to co-create new products and services?’. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Steve Todd

Customer Innovation via Corporate Portals

Innovation Perspectives - EMC Customer InnovationInnovate With Influence” provides several examples of how interaction with customers can result in breakthrough new ideas. The examples in the book, however, highlight customer engagements initiated by one person: the intrapreneur. While intrapreneurial intent is a valued trait, one intrapreneur can connect and interact with only so many customers.

What is also needed is a corporate mechanism for engaging, brainstorming, and co-creating with customers in a more scalable way.

At EMC Corporation, social media experts have created an online portal for that purpose. The portal can serve as a clearinghouse where customers and intrapreneurs can collaborate on the latest problems and technologies. The innovation portal is characterized by the following capabilities:

  • One person runs the ship. A corporation needs a contact person who is the over-seer of customer/corporate innovation. For EMC’s portal that person is Dr. Burt Kaliski.
  • Lectures by corporate intrapreneurs and customers are advertised regularly. These lectures enable live cross-talk and are downloadable after the fact. The lectures often cover strategic directions that are in the minds of customers and/or corporate intrapreneurs.
  • Activity at global, corporate research centers is highlighted. This advertisement allows customers around the world to collaborate directly with local researchers on problems specific to their country or region (e.g. research centers in China and Cambridge).
  • Recorded videos from intrapreneurs directly address important topics such as sustainability in engineering.
  • Customers and partners are invited to directly participate in innovation contests and coding challenges.
  • The results of internal corporate innovation conferences are publicly posted for perusal by customers.
  • Early access (and support) to emerging technologies is shared with those customers that join the innovation portal.

Each of these areas is of course undergirded by social media capabilities such as comments and tagging.

Innovation portals are an excellent one-stop shop for bringing together customers and corporations for the purpose of co-creation.

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You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on ‘How should firms collaborate with customers and/or value chain partners to co-create new products and services?’ by clicking the link in this sentence.


Steve ToddSteve Todd is a high-tech inventor and author of the book “Innovate With Influence“. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 150 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground.