Wikinomics and Corporate Learning

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 01.20.08

The idea that people who use products should have input into their design is not entirely new. There have been many episodes of user-driven creativity in the history of invention, which scholars such as MIT professor Eric Von Hippel have shown through their research.

As Don Tapscott points out in his book, Wikinomics , steam engine makers in 19th century England collaborated openly with mine owners to improve the efficiency of the steam engine used to pump water out of coal mines. A more recent example comes from BMW. When it came time to rethink the features for future models (such as GPS navigation), the company released a digital design kit on its website to encourage interested customers to design these features themselves. Thousands responded and shared ideas with company engineers, many of which have since turned into valued business initiatives.

Now BMW hosts a “virtual innovation agency” on its website, where small and medium-sized businesses can submit ideas in the hope of establishing an ongoing relationship with BMW. Increasingly smart companies see co-creation with their customers as an important way to develop new products.

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