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Tim Ogilvie

I have used focus groups, surveys, direct observation, but by far the most valuable customer insights I received were from fielding a handful of prototypes. These were truly homely creations that were barely functional (I won’t bore you with the specifics). The engineering team had to be cajoled into making them, and they were immediately disowned. Except by the handful of pilot customers, some of whom were family members. Of course what happened is that some pilot customers even surprised themselves with the ways they did and didn’t use it. Dramatically affected the innovation process. Since then, I have sought – and sometimes found – ways to prototype even purely conceptual innovations that have functioned as “concept cars” to elicit tryout and feedback.

Christopher D. Coppola

I've been lurking silently in this community for a couple of years now & this is my first contribution back. Thanks for all you do.

I'm president of the r-smart group, a technology services company company serving higher education. In the recent past I would have described us as a software company. In fact our chairman started the commercial software business for major systems in colleges and universities in 1968. It is the shift from being a software company to a services company that describes our shift in gaining customer insights. We have embraced open source software as a core part of our business strategy. Our offerings have shifted from software (intellectual property) that we own and sell to support and packaged solutions around software that our customers are already building. So rather than finding ways to collect information about what our customers need and then trying to build something as a result, we're doing that with them as a part of one team. Taking the ownership issues out of the equation creates a safe and open environment to share ideas (and code). The model so far is to get involved and help them build it, it (the software and source code) becomes freely availalbe, and by working hand in hand with the customers we gain deep insight into what we need to offer to help other schools take advantage of it.

We're still exploring, but this new model has significantly changed our relationship with our customers and potential customers.

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