Have we entered the era of the user revenge on the technology? User has increased its position at the center of modern design. Even more, if user-centric design and design-thinking reflect the customer upstream involvement, new platforms are designed with and by customers, who act both as demanders and suppliers. Is it the brand which is now at the edge of user-centric business?
From ideation to product acceptance, an ongoing dialogue
By integrating user in the design process, the stakes are to better address customer needs, detect latent expectations, from functional feature to emotional experience with the product, create an environment of desire, nail differentiation attributes, and increase customer loyalty: the more customers engage with the brand, the more loyal they become.
Ideas crowdsourcing, filtering a selection of best ideas, and implementing them, that’s the aim of web platforms such as My Starbuck Ideas, Dell Idea Storm, Intel Make it Wearable, Casino Cvous, Imagine with Orange, and Sosh Ideas.
Next stage is about transforming the idea in concept and elegant customer experience: user can still be involved, and provide his feedback on future concept, or on product usability. The difficulty happens when viewpoints diverge, while you want your concept to converge…
User cooperation can happen online, through solution specific search platforms, where projects team form and collaborate, through online polls & testing lab web sites like Lab Orange or SFR Atelier. It can take place in real life, where customer brings back home the new product to experiment, like at Decathlon.
Co-design involves usually a limited number of users, but Fiat Mio broke the glass ceiling by leading a first car design in open source mode: ‘more than 17,000 participants from around the world submitted more than 11,000 ideas. During the design process, people were able take part in many decisions like car colors and doors configuration’ (IdeaConnection / André Pinheiro).
Good ideas can come from inside the company naturally: participative innovation involve employees. Staff in relationship with customers, back-office employees, managers, or even data from machines, apps or any customer-facing interface, provide valuable insights.
It is worth as well listening to the customer in the post-launch stage to achieve quickly a succesful second release, or adjust the communication messages: do you remember the features shortcomings of the first iPhone that were shortly rectified in the second iPhone, like 3G, video capture, cut and paste interactions, MMS?
Products turn into platforms
We give you the tools, and you create: with platforms, third-parties like developers or partners are offered the opportunity to build value on top of them, and become producers. Designing for evolves in designing with.
With platforms, the creative product is never finished: it’s a living innovation, in a constant state of arousal, where users continuously shape the service. To some extent, the platform’s user is the service.
The role of the designer or innovation manager is then to create platforms and toolkit that will help others to design. “Designer as integrator” enriches his role, and unleashes the creative potential of users by providing interactive tools: I’m not selling you a service, I’m selling you the ability to build your own. His toolbox is made of APIs, SDK, open source software and OS, open source objects, documentation, sandbox, user loop feedback … and last but not least, community evangelization, and community management.
The natural platforms examples are the App Store for iOS devices, or the Google Play for Android ones. Lego Cuusoo launched in 2008, and rebranded Lego Ideas in 2014, is another platform instance: Lego provides the lego bricks, users create models, and Lego commercializes most popular models via its Lego distribution networks, online and retail. Threadless build another sucessful platform: it’s a marketplace for teeshirts, where tee-shirts are designed by an artist community, and get printed when they are popular enough with mass market community who scores them.
Here the stakes are to balance global scale and personalization, to develop a vivid ecosystem, and to adopt the ‘succeeding together’, ‘designing with’, and collaborative state of mind.
Consumers bring their own products
One step further, and users don’t leverage the platform to create new services: they bring their own product, and expose it on the market place. As people become users they become providers: it’s the collaborative or share economy. Such platforms are named Wikipedia, AirB&B, Home Exchange, Blablacar, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang…
Peer to peer platforms facilitate sharing, collaborating, conversing: ‘For you, to you’ is being replaced by ‘With you, by you’. ‘Me’ and ‘We’ intersect. It’s not just about money, it’s about access and sharing, based on realizing that unused value is waste.
By combining personalization with global scale, and enabling a much more efficient use of resources, these platforms tend to become ‘the new normal’.
Sharing platforms require trust (trust is central: in trust we trust!) and reputation mechanism, that can brought by brands, hosting the various exchanges. Company can influence, but not control, and leadership becomes a matter of motivating others by the strength of your vision.
Castorama, DIY brand for home improvement, is engaging in collaborative DIY, faciliting education and tips sharing, sets-up wiki, Mooc, barcamps, 3D after-sales, open innovation projects, moving from selling things to helping people fix and improve their home.
The stakes for brands are to create a product-based community to avoid commoditization. Large businesses operate to derisk from what’s going to happen, and potential disruption of their value chain. Giving meaning to data collected through collaborative platforms can generate new business model. Reaching for ‘timeless beauty’, avoiding to become obsolete, alike ‘tomorrow’s narrowband’, and building sustainable innovation, is another stake of this kind of co-creation.
While innovation is the brand’s lung, co-creation is the cornerstone to nurture the relationship between brand and community.
image credits: The cocreation effect francisgouillart.com, user-centered-design conselo.wordpress.com, Imagine with Orange, Testing new product smallbusinessbc.ca, innovation communities hyvecommunity.net, platform apulialogisticsystem.com, Threadless gq-magazine.co.ukCollaborative-Consumption-Rachel Botsman, road-to-the-horizon_freehdw.com
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Nicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge, and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented successfully at Orange, and further developed at nbry.wordpress.com. He tweets @nicobry