15 07, 2013

[Featured Research] User Generated Brands and their Contribution to the Diffusion of User Innovations

By | 2018-06-14T06:34:20+00:00 Juli 15th, 2013|Co-creation, Design, Featured Research, Research Studies|

Continuing our mini-series on noteworthy research from around the world, today we feature new work by Johann Füller, Roland Schroll and Eric von Hippel who show that usersnot just are the source of most innovation, but also can create powerful brands

ResearchUser Generated  Brands and their Contribution to the Diffusion of User Innovations
, by Johann Füller, Roland Schroll, Eric von Hippel

Published in: Research Policy, Volume 42, Issues 6–7, July–August 2013, Pages 1197–1209

Available on: ScienceDirect.com


(based on the abstract)

It has been argued that users can create innovations
and also diffuse them peer-to-peer independent of support or involvement
by producers
: that “user-only” innovation systems can exist. It is
known that users can be incented to innovate via benefits from in-house

But users’ incentives to invest in diffusion are much less clear:
benefits that others might obtain from their innovation can be largely or entirely an externality for user innovators.

course, effective distribution of information products can be done
near-costlessly via posting downloadable content – for example, software
– on the Internet. However, potential adopters must still learn about
the product and trust its qualities.

In producer systems, this aspect of
diffusion is heavily supported via the creation of trusted brands. It
has been shown that brands help to increase awareness, to communicate a
product's benefits, and to reduce perceived risks of adoption. The
development of brands by producers is traditionally seen as a very
costly exercise
– unlikely to be thought of as worthwhile by users who
expect little or no benefits from the diffusion of their innovations to

In this paper the authors explore the creation of a strong and trusted
brand by the Apache software community
– and find it was created
costlessly, as a side effect of normal community functioning. The authors think
the costless creation of strong brands is an option that is
generally available to user innovation communities. As they 
propose, it supports the existence of robust, user-only innovation systems by
helping to solve the problem of low-cost diffusion of trusted
user-developed innovations.

18 05, 2013

Just Released: Completely New 2013 Edition of Our Open Innovation Market Study

By | 2018-06-14T06:47:26+00:00 Mai 18th, 2013|Co-creation, OI Market Study, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies, Technologies & Enablers|

OIA_2013Fresh from the press! For the second time, our open innovation study explores that market of open innovation accelerators (OIA), organizations that help their clients to include external experts in all stages of an innovation project.

Open innovation today has become a core tool in innovation management. But which is the right method for open innovation? Which are the criteria to plan an open innovation project? Which intermediary or service provider has specific knowledge and expertise in, e.g., crowdsourcing, the lead user method, Netnography, idea contests, technology scouting, or broadcast search? This totally updated, 2013 edition report provides a comprehensive analysis of the providers and platforms for open innovation.

We take a detailed look on the methods, cost, project and community structures, and market size. Our purpose is to support strategic decisions when planning an open innovation venture. Managers will gain an overview of the intermediaries available for open innovation and will get advice how to identify partners for their project.

We invited more than 160 intermediaries to join our survey investigating
the OIA’s business model and environment, productivity, services offered, project specifics, and characteristics of their participant pool. In addition, we asked about estimates for the development of the open innovation market. Besides a lot of highly interresting findings about the market for open innovation in general and the intermediary's role in it, we were also able to compile 188 detailed accelerator profiles.

In the following weeks, we will post a series of articles with selected findings from the market study!

The study is available via Lulu.com in both a paperback and an ebook version.

A preview can be found here.

23 04, 2013

[Interview] Don’t Tell Stories, Seek Solutions: The Story of the Problem Solution Conferences

By | 2018-06-14T06:47:43+00:00 April 23rd, 2013|Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Events, Interview, Open/User Innovation|

En-mode-solutionsWe have been reporting on the format of teh "Seeks Solution" conferences before. The idea is both simple and surprisingly effective: turn a scientific conference upside down: Skip the presentation of successful research and undertakings and focus, together, on what is really interesting for everybody: challenges yet unsolved.

The event in question is, of course, the by now fairly popular series of "Seek Solutions" conferences.

Deutsch-cSince the first conference in Quebec, things have evolved and been refined. Christophe Deutsch of En Mode Solutions, the organization now planning and executing solution-seeking conferences in innovative hubs around the world, has kindly agreed to answer some of our questions on the concept, its evolution and the future – and how you can be part of it.


FTP: Christophe, your
"seek solutions" program takes a slightly different approach to
problem solving than usual. Can you explain in some brief words how it works
and what makes it special?

CD: We have developed a 4-Step Process that has given,
over the years, great results!

1 -Call for Problems: The promoter of the event asks his community to
submit complex problems that defy the standard analyses of his experts in the

2 – Formulate Selected Problems: We help the promoter to select the problems most
likely to garner interest at the event and to formulate them so that they can
be more easily shared. An expert of the problem’s domain, called an ambassador
in our case, is put in contact with the solution seeker. Just by asking some
basic questions, the ambassador is able to help the solution seeker further
define the problem and ensure that the description that will ultimately be
posted on a web-based platform is sufficiently clear and broad.

3 – Disseminate to a wider community – Problem broadcast: We disseminate the problems to be addressed to a
vast range of specialists in a variety of fields. They can provide a different
outlook on the problems raised, ask preparatory questions and participate in
the event. Broadcast is done through a web-based platform including as much
information as possible, such as figures, references, or details of failed

Two strategies are employed during the
problem-broadcast step. A general broadcasting approach ensures that everyone
who thinks they could help has the opportunity to participate. A targeted
broadcast to specialists based on expectations about what type of expertise
might be relevant to a particular problem is also used in parallel.

4 – Seeking Solutions Events: The last step is what differentiates the Seeking
Solutions approach from other open innovation techniques, because it involves a
real event where non-virtual collaboration arises. Solution seekers and problem
solvers come together during a full-day session to focus on the selected
problems. Careful preparation is required to ensure maximum output from the
event. The collaboration process is divided into three phases: i) divergence,
ii) exploration, and iii) convergence. Our facilitation methods allow for
significant and creative interaction with experts who are normally not part of
the same networks, and take full advantage of the “cross-pollination” of
brainpower effect.

You’ll be surprised to see that creative solutions
have been found to your complex problems in environments completely different
from your own.

FTP: From your website
one can tell that you have been organizing a number of solution seeking
conferences in the past. What did you learn from these? (How) did the concept
evolve over time?

CD: The call for problems for the
first event – Quebec Seeks Solutions (QSS) – was launched in June 2010. Ten
problems were submitted by nine industrial companies from the Quebec City area.
The problems were broadcasted online in early November 2010. On December 14,
2010, 175 people gathered at the Convention Centre in Quebec City to attend the
first problem-solving conference (Quebec Seeks Solutions).

For this first event, the largest
perceived gain was:

  • Networking outside the
    "normal" network,
  • The generation of new ideas for
  • A better understanding of the
  • Initiation of research contracts
    with real benefits and return on investment for the companies

A second edition of Quebec Seeks
Solutions took place in May 2012. Nine solution-seeking companies and 162
problem solvers participated in the two-day event. The outcomes were as good as
the first edition with some very nice success stories as a bonus.

In June 2012, we conducted a
workshop on the same basis at the ISPIM Conference in Barcelona, Spain. The
process was slightly adapted to the duration of the event and the context of
the conference. The workshop lasted less than two hours and the call for
problems was for innovation management issues only. Thirteen problems were
submitted and 5 were selected for the workshop. The solution seekers
appreciated the experience even though it only gave them a preview of what
could be achieved in a full-day event.

What we first learned so far is
that the intellectual-property issues that our detractors raise are not a
, mainly because the event in itself is an exploration where everybody
feels free to contribute. Intellectual-property challenges typically arise
"downstream" from this initial exploration.

Secondly, there is a real value
in local open innovation. Some
people say “Why connect locally when you can connect easily to the world
nowadays?” The answer is simple. Because a combination of open innovation and
collaboration on a local scale brings most of the benefits… without the
potential inconvenience of cultural differences!
Often the seeker and the
solver need to engage in collaborative research activities to achieve the
solution. Here, a regional conference offers much better opportunities than a
worldwide web platform.

Finally, it’s the importance of
the collaboration process in itself. The animation of such a conference cannot
be done in a conventional manner. The animators have to be experimented with
large groups and able to adapt depending on what happens.

Our approach is in constant
evolution and we still experiment during each event. For example at some point
in 2012
, we tried a two days event in order to see if the evening could bring
some special collaborations or new ideas. And in November this year, we will
introduce a technology push through a technology platform that local R&D
centers possess in our Quebec Seeks Solutions event. This may give ideas for
new problems or technology transfer and generate even more results!

FTP: You have three new
conferences planned for 2013, in June, September and November. Can you tell us
a bit about these? What to expect? Any big

CD: Yes, indeed, the Seeks Solutions approach is spreading around!

  • 2nd
    ISPIM Seeks Solutions, June 18, 2013 – Helsinki, Finland.
    A large conference is a great place to explore problems
    because you have experts from all around the world that can participate. I
    predict that you should see a lot more of these workshops in the future in
    numerous conferences because they offer a great way to collaborate and network!
  • Polymères en mode
    , September 26, 2013 – St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada.
     Sponsored by the
    Quebec Plastic Industry Consortium tihis one day event will focus on this
    industrial sector only. Plastic companies will submit problems they experiment
    but we may also have other industrial companies that submit problems which
    could be solved by the plastic industry.
  • 3rd
    Quebec Seeks Solutions, November 5-6, 2013

    This is where it all started! And in addition this year is the Seeking Solutions Summit – Methods and
    Policies Creating a Local Ecosystem for Technology Transfer, Collaboration, and
    Local Innovation
    . This is where we hope the open innovation world community
    will meet this fall!

Several other events are in the
midst for Canadian cities, industries and conferences! Stay tuned!

FTP: Pretending I was a
company with a problem I would like to have solved. What do I do to profit from
"seek solutions"?

CD: It’s very easy. You submit your
problem to any upcoming event we have on our calendar at www.enmodesolutions.com/en or contact Yahya Baby (yb@enmodesolutions.com) to
discuss about holding your own event in your area.

FTP: In my understanding
you are offering to organize problem solving conferences internationally, not
only in Canada. How can communities or administrations contact you for talks
about hosting a conference? How does the organizational process work?

CD: Yes
our team is ready and eager to work a lot more overseas even though we are very
busy as it is. The best way to engage into this process is to contact Yahya
Baby via email yb@enmodesolutions.com or by phone at 581-996-6778. Once we become
involved, we help the promoters organizing a successful event every step of the

FPT: From your
experiences so far, do you think that this and other forms of open problem
solution concepts are already well-accepted? Do they work? Or: what needs still
to be done to unleash their full potential?

CD: Open innovation and open problem solving approaches
require a change of mindset to reach full potential. A change of mindset most
often requires a pain or an enormous challenge to work it’s way. The current
economical context in Europe and North America is a good enabler I would think!
Because status quo is not an answer for anyone, in any type of industry and in
any country right now!

Many problems that the companies are facing today are
complex because they mix technical, environmental, social, and political
issues. To face this growing complexity, classical problem-solving
methodologies are no longer appropriate. The Seeking Solutions approach has the
potential to address the complex challenges of the next decade and we believe
that it can help us to migrate from a collection of intelligences to a real
collective intelligence. The next step is to encourage more and more companies
to try local open innovation and to convince local governments to support this

FTP: Christophe, many thanks for these extensive insights into your visions. It will certainly be a plasure to be part of a future solution seeking event again and I wish you all the best for this venture!

If you are interested in more information about En Mode Solutions and the conference format – or want to get in touch about hosting a conference yourself – please see the official website.

20 04, 2013

Open Co-Creation Dinner in the ELAT Region – 14 May 2013

By | 2018-06-14T06:47:46+00:00 April 20th, 2013|Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Events, Open/User Innovation|

Creating an open mindset for collaborative innovation:
Dinner Networking & Co-Creation Event – 14 May 2013

ImportAOLENewsv41553575The Eindhoven-Leuven-Aken (ELAT) region is one of the most powerful innovative and high tech regions in the world. Enlarge your network and get to know CEOs and Innovation Directors of this ELAT-region by learning about co-creation in an interactive way!

In a joint dinner-workshop event between several industry associations in the ELAT region, we will discuss different approaches to co-create with customers and users.

But beyond implementing some tools, successful co-creation demands a set of internal capabilities of your organization to transfer the external input into successful innovation.

We will hence also discuss how to create an open mindset for collaborative innovation yourself.
Tuesday ,14 May 2013, 17:00 – 22:00 at C-Mine 10 bus 2, 3600 Genk, Belgium
More: Official Website and Registration Form


17.00 Registration and reception
17.20 Welcome
Wim Dries, Mayor, City of Genk
17.30 Find your personal innovation challenge
Guided by Prof. Dr. Frank T. Piller
18.30 3 way dinner
18.50 Strategic partnerships, the future of innovation
Jos Pinte, Director Innovation, Agoria
19.00 BiELAT, who are we ?
Rob Janssen, chairman, Foundation BiELAT
19.30 Success story of Future Sketching with ELAT partners
Stephane Berghmans, R&D Manager, TE Connectivity
20.00 Co-creation, it is more than you think
Prof. Dr. Frank T. Piller
21.00 Co-creation design challenge, All participants, guided by Prof. Dr. Frank T. Piller
22.00     End
25 02, 2013

ISPM Seeks Solution: Problem Conference in Crowdsolving Innovation Management Challenges

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:18+00:00 Februar 25th, 2013|Co-creation, Events, Open/User Innovation|

Bild grossOne of the most innovative approaches to open innovation
is coming again this year: The Problem Conference.

Here: For Management Challenges!

The core idea: Turn a conference upside down. Instead
of presenting "solutions" and "best practices" to impress the other
participants with your successes, present your hardest challenge
Present what you could not solve, and ask openly for help! The
(beginning of the) solution then will be co-created with the

Due to the great success of the first problem conference in 2010 we are proud to announce to you the 2013 edition of the ISPIM Seeks Solutions Conference!

Taking place 16:00 – 17:30, June 18th, at the ISPIM conference in Helsinki (Room: 304 – 3rd floor). The ISPIM 2013 conference offers the unique opportunity to engage in this new form of "local open innovation".

Call for problems: What is your problem with managing innovation?

You have a problem related to innovation management and want to use the intelligence of experts from all around the world to solve it? Here’s how you can do it!

Submit your problem to ISPIM Seeks Solutions and if your problem is selected your problem will be treated during the one hour and a half workshop on June 18th at the ISPIM conference in Helsinki.

To submit a problem, describe it using here

The process is based on the open innovation problem broadcasting approach. Problems can be submitted until March 29th. The “best problems” will then be selected and broadcasted on the web few weeks prior the event. Problem seekers will also get some support from ISPIM experts to well define the problem prior to broadcasting it. During the workshop in itself, ISPIM delegates participating to the workshop will collaborate around the selected problems and help you in understanding it better.

If you need more information: contact conference staff at ispim.helsinki@enmodesolutions.com


4 02, 2013

Lego CUUSOO: How Lego Turns Your Ideas Into Cubic Reality

By | 2018-05-07T15:19:22+00:00 Februar 4th, 2013|Cases-Consumer, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Design, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers|

LEGO's Factory (later called "LEGO Design by me") has been one of the pioneers of mass customization.However, times change and Lego closed this "build on demand site" about a year ago and focused entirely on customer co-creation in the innovation process.

For this, they are partnering with CUUSOO; the mother of all crowdsourcing sites for product development (we described them in our 2006 paper on Threadless already!).

The project is called Lego CUUSOO and wors fairly simple: Everybody can submit an idea of what he would deem a great Lego product. Customers get to vote online and if the proposal gets sufficient buyer pledges the company turns it into reality and produces the toy.

Noew, there is a nice video giving more detail on this idea, it makes you instantly grab a pen and paper and start drawing your own powertoy idea…


17 01, 2013

[Featured Research] Study Backs Long Term Claim with Hard Data: User-Generated Products Make More Profit

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:38+00:00 Januar 17th, 2013|Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Featured Research, Furniture - Home, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies|

Since years we argue that customers / users not just have good ideas for new products & services, but that products with roots in user innovation are actually more profitable and superior to inhouse-developed products. There has been some anecdotal evidence to prove this claim, and lots of case studies, but not hard data. But now a study provides hard evidence:

Journal_of_marketingUser-generated versus designer-generated products: A performance assessment at Muji
, by: Hidehiko Nishikawa, Martin Schreier, Susumu Ogaw, in: International Journal of Research in Marketing (2013)

Our colleagues Hidehiko Nishikawa (Hosei University), Martin Schreier (WU Vienna University) and Susumu Ogawa (Kobe University) show that user-generated products perform better
on the market than their (professional) designer-generated counterparts. Their idea is to systematically compare actual market performance of user-generated products with firm (designer)-generated ones.

User innovation (red) vs firm innovationThe authors present a unique data set gathered from the Japanese consumer goods brand Muji, which has drawn on both sources of ideas in parallel in recent years. They demonstrate that user-generated products in the furniture category, which are found to generally contain higher novelty outperformed their designer-generated counterparts on key market performance metrics.

Specifically, in the first year after introduction, sales revenues from user-generated products were three times higher and gross margins were four times greater than those of designer-generated products.

These effects also increased over time: after three years, the aggregate sales revenues of user-generated products were, on average, 1.25 billion yen (approximately 16 million dollars) higher, or five times greater, than the sales of designer-generated products. The corresponding average margin was an impressive 619 million yen (approximately 8 million dollars) higher, or six times greater, than the margin for designer-generated products. Finally, user-generated products were more likely to survive the three-year observation period than designer-generated products (i.e., were still on the market three years after introduction).

These findings clearly favor the paradigm shift identified in marketing research and appeal to managers considering the integration of user ideas into the process of new product development. In their paper, the authors discuss the study’s limitations and identify important avenues for future research.

I find this study especially interesting as MUJI is world-wide admired for their great inhouse design team! Also, the study shows that this is more than a novelty effect: Customers did not know whether a product was user designed or not, they just liked (and purchased) the product!

10 01, 2013

Competivation Consulting Founded to Meet Innovation-, Technology- and Strategy Consulting Needs of Industry

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:44+00:00 Januar 10th, 2013|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Deutsch (in German), MC/OI on the Web, Offline Customization, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

I frequently receive requests by companies for innovation counseling and consulting on open innovation, mass customizuation, and technology management.  While we do not perform any consulting for individual companies with our RWTH-TIM institute, there are a number of opportunities for consulting.

Competivation Consulting & EducationTo meet the needs of industry, together with an experienced executive consultant, Prof. Hans-Gerd Servatius,  we have founded Competivation Consulting, a dynamic innovation and strategy management consulting company from innovators for innovators. 

Combining decades of innovation research, teaching and consulting, COMPETIVATION's team of experts supports your company with

  • Management consulting in innovation and technologymanagement,
  • Strategy and innovation workshops,
  • Strategic and technology roadmapping,
  • Trend analysis and strategic foresight,
  • Technology, market and benchmarking analysis,
  • Implementation counseling,
  • Networking with intermediaries and IT-partners,
  • Executive education programs and corporate speaking

Special areas of expertise are open innovation, customer co-creation, mass customization, but also the development of comprehensive strategies for innovation and technology managememt.

ServatiusProf. Hans-Gerd Servatius has met our Editor in Chief for a brief interview, outlining the USPs of Competivation Consulting and what can be done especially for the open innovation strategist.

CG: Some of our readers will know you as the author of your latest book, touching a pressing matter of our times, Smart Energy. Can you tell a bit about yourself and your experience in technology and innovation management consulting?

GS: We created the term technology and innovation management in the early 1980s at Arthur D. Little, where I led the German TIM practice. For me this was a great opportunity, to put the concepts, which I had developed in my Ph.D. thesis on strategic management of technology into practical work. During the following decades I tried to anticipate the next TIM waves like corporate venture management (which has a lot in common with open innovation), process and business model innovation, knowledge management as well as sustainability, to mention some examples. Today I think technology and innovation management is more important than ever and looking back to its roots helps to better understand the future.

CG: You have over 30 years of experience as a professional consultant, having been anywhere from an entrance position to partner level and managing director in internationally reknown firms. What sets Competivation apart from the existing competition?

GS: I would like to mention three points. First: Competivation is a young firm with very experienced founders. This helps us to create a unique culture. Second: The founders have an excellent reputation as scientists and management consultants. We have a strong international network. Based on these competencies we can be more innovative in our field than many others. And third: Our combination of executive education with consulting offers possibilities for differentiation that satisfy the needs of many clients, who are looking for more sustainable results.

CG: Our readers are especially interested in open innovation. Do you see OI to be the method of choice to solve many of the (technical) problems that companies usually struggle with solving on their own? Why?

GS: Open innovation has proven that it can generate great ideas and solve many problems. Roughly ten years after the term has been created the experience of leading firms with different OI methods is growing. One of the reasons for this success is the increased connectivity potential of a company, its stakeholders and non-obvious others, who can play a role in the innovation processes. A challenge many companies are still facing today is the integration of open integration into an emerging enterprise 2.0 concept. This means that both internal and external innovation must become more cooperative.

CG: Do you think that corporate culture is key element in (remodeling) innovation management, as part of an integrated approach? If so, can you give some examples from your experience?

GS: Corporate Culture is clearly a key element for innovation. It always was and new forms of innovation require cultural adaptations. The cultural challenge today is to find the right balance between closed and open innovation, individual talents and cooperative success as well as trust in others and securing intellectual property. The answer is not black or white. Success formulas are more complex and need to be tailored to specific situations. In our assignments we help organizations and their managers to improve the specific competencies needed to compete in this new era of innovation. An example is an international automotive company, which we support on its way to become a provider of mobility solutions. This requires new business models combining open and closed innovation as well as improved leadership skills as orchestrators of different partners.

CG: Can you give a little insight into your network? What is Competivation`s special competence mix?

GS:  Our network consists of partners in the academic world, complementary service providers and experienced practitioners, who work together in a trust-based way. One example is the Business Transformation Academy, which is sponsored by SAP. On their international conference in October in Budapest we presented our new study of a changing energy sector based on innovative IT enabled business models. If I have a special competence it perhaps is to put technology and innovation management not only into a strategic, organizational and cultural context but also to translate new findings from complexity theory into practical solution sets. In a volatile world this is what many clients are looking for.


GermanWhile Competivation Consulting´s core market is the DACH region (Germany, Austria, and
Switzerland), we are also open for assignments beyond these ountries. You will find more informationen on Competivation and our service portfolio at www.competivation.de (in German language only!) or contact us directly!

19 12, 2012

[Participate!] European Open Innovation Practitioner Program

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:11+00:00 Dezember 19th, 2012|Co-creation, Events, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers|

European open bannerSummary:
Executive Masterclass and Consortial Benchmarking on Open Innovation for executive OI practitioners. Additional information and the full program can be found in the
official program flyer (click to download) and on the official event website.

Implementing Open

collaboration with RWTH Techonology and Innovation Management Group, NineSigma offers a unique practitioners program on open
. The program helps open innovation leaders to implement open
innovation practices and capabilities within their organization
, enabling them
to boost their productivity of innovation

program provides the first certified training for open innovation
and is a unique combination of a master class and
a consortial roadmap initiative that will provide value for the participating open
innovation champion
s and their organizations.

As part of the course, participants will jointly develop a roadmap for implementation of open
. With relevant experts from companies,
best practices are shared on key subjects using insights from academics,
industry, and participating companies
. The sessions are organized on location
at one of the participating member companies

The program targets corporate
who are actively involved in running Open Innovation practices at
. To ensure exchange of experience from all participants, the
required participants level is on the executive level in general (e.g. director
level and higher).

The program consists of 4 full days workshops
and lectures
, 3 online webinar sessions of 1,5 hour and great opportunities for networking. The webinar sessions will be recorded for participants to be able to
. More information in the program brochure.

A registration form and all information can be
obtained from Mrs. Diane Schepers at NineSigma Leuven by writing an email to schepers@ninesigma.com or on the official event website. All info is also here in
official program brochure.

23 07, 2012

Market Watch: Formulor: Professional-grade yet easy and affordable 3D-designing and production

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:53+00:00 Juli 23rd, 2012|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

Copyright Formulor, www.formulor.de, all rights reserved!If you co-host a large-scale mass customization conference as we did with the Create Your Own (CYO) last year, it is delighting to learn that connections established during the event are resulting in new ventures and products. 

One result of CYO networking has been the cooperation between virtual product presentation specialist Open Experience and Formulor, a Berlin based company offering customized 3D-products. Formulor is one of the German frontend's for Ponoko.


Copyright Fomulor, www.formulor.de, all rights reserved!

The limit is your imagination (and what a laser cutter can do). Example model. Click to enlarge!

Formulor gives its users all the tools necesary to design whatever shape and form they like and to have it laser cut and engraved before shipping it to your doorstep. The really great part of this is the consumer frontend which is about as easy to use as a "conventional" configurator and yet can do so much more.


It enables casual users and professional designers alike to quickly bring any form out of their mind onto a virtual canvas. One can do so by either uploading an existing file (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, inkscape) or by using the really convenient drawing and writing tools embedded into the configurator. 

Open Experience, a spin-off of the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie KIT and a specialist in 3D configuration,  has done a great job in designing the front end. Even without any knowledge of how to use a 2D-designing software you can easily get a nice-looking 3D object drawn and rendered in no time at all. 

Most of the work, the magic to it, if you will, happens in the background. While you draw and write on the virtual canvas the software translatest your entries into a 3D model which is presented at all times. You will always know how your design will look in "real life" once laser-cut and delivered to you. 

Copyright Formulor, www.formulor.de, all rights reserved!

2D drawing canvas, ready for creative input. Click to Enlarge!

Furthermore the configurator automatically checks whether or not your design is actually technically producable, so you do not have to worry about that aspect at all: As long as it can be manufactured by Formulor's partner company Ponoko's laser cutters, you can design whatever you like.

And because Formulor checks your brainchild against Ponoko's personal factory API, pricing of your design is also constantly updated. 

 The base materials you chose from at the beginning of your configuration process include acrylic glass, cardboard, cork, corrugate card, decoflex veneer, felt, finnboard, leather, MDF, PET, paperboard, plywood, polypropylen, silicon and stamp rubber in a large variety of colors and thicknesses

This platform can really be of great value for all kinds of creatives, be it to visualize an idea, to prototype, to get special parts for your architectural model or just as part of your latest crafting of christmas gifts.

Besides this practical aspect it is a great example of how (conference) networking can help you identifying the right partner to get your business ahead of the competition. Formulor, Open Experience and Ponoko have created a very interesting tool for individual and affordable modeling here that could set standards in this branch.

More about Open Experience, Formulor and Ponoko on their respective websites. And to get an idea of how easy it is to use Formulor's frontend to form your own product, here is a video, too!


12 07, 2012

Market Watch: Idea Contests as a Service: Pitchburner and Skild

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:13+00:00 Juli 12th, 2012|Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, MC/OI on the Web, Open/User Innovation|

Copyright of the respective owners, all rights reserved!Idea Constest are not only recognized by Open Innovation scholars as a great method to benefit from customer experience, they are also a fairly popular tool to foster end- or lead-user integration into the design and development process.

Setting up a successful idea contest, however, requires a lot of dedication, know-how and legwork. This has shown to be a major barrier for many companies who still do not exploit the (full) potential of crowdsourcing and co-creation.

For those ventures who do not want (or can not afford) to hire an open innovation expert of their own, outsourcing to social media specialists can be a viable, yet still not exactly cheap solution. As a result, a number of companies are now starting to offer idea contests as a (web) service. Their concept is that experienced users can create idea contests very easily and at low cost, sometimes even free (a conventional idea contest by a full-service agency costs easily US$50K or more)

An example for this trend are Pitchburner and Skild.

Pitchburner, located in Lincoln, NE, has specialized in supporting online-hosted events, amongst them all kinds of innovation competitions.

Copyright Pitchburner, www.pitchburner.com, all rights reserved!

Submission management interface, click to enlarge!

Pitchburner's platform allows innovation managers (or any staff member) to simply put together a complete idea contest by using a simple interface to define the constest's setup, marketing, participant registration, submissions, judges, idea evaluation and so on. 

Copyright Pitchburner, www.pitchburner.com, all rights reserved!

Comprehensive feature oversight.

Pitchburner offers a free basic version, allowing you do host simple contests as well as two more sophisticated premium and enterprise packages (like multiple rounds, advanced tracking-, messaging- and analytics features, automation of many otherwise tiresome processes and much more).

An interesting part of using a platform like this is the ability to use preexisting template system. Designing a well-looking constes website with all relevant subpages, forms and functionality takes time and requires experienced (hence costly) personel.

Sending emails to all of your participants or judges by the use of the platform's built-in mailing templates is likely faster and less complicated than doing so from your mail client. And if you have ever tried to keep records of an idea contest with 5.000 participants in your standard spreadsheet-software, you probably know how much headache a well-build database can save.

A similar service is offered by SKILD, a new brand by idea contest pioneer idea crossing, one of the most experienced companies in the field in the USA.

SKLID is comparable to pitchburner in many regards, however, they do offer a more complete package of support services. These are not part of the platform, hence not automated, but are "real", traditional coaching and support on tasks like program and marketing strategy, rules development, research, advanced custom design, social media-, technology- and security support, advise on prizes and advances analysis of user/ contest data.

Hence, they do combine the automated contest application with solutions for some of the points I will adress below.


Copyright of the original pictures Skild Inc, www.skild.com, all rights reserved!

Skild offers a graphically appealing, easy to use configurator as well. Click to enlarge!


My opinion:

  • It is too early to investigate the impact of these offerings on the market for crowdsourcing, and I also personally have not yet tried one of these services for a real project. But the trend is there: Crowdsourcing is getting a broader and broader.
  • The price level of these services is fantastic, and the platform's features include everything one needs for a professional ideation contest.
  • But winning with an idea contest is much more than software:  These platforms do not help you with …
    • asking the right question,
    • formulating the right task.
    • defining the rules of the game and legal terms,
    • getting a feel for the right incentives,
    • reaching a broad and new field of potential participants,
    • (the majority of) community management,
    • not making the beginner's mistakes again,
    • defining a communication strategy for your contest,
    • selecting the winner,
    • programming an interface to existing customer databases or your internal R&D software system,
  • But for experienced users and companies, these services are a great tool. The same may hold true for non-profit or even local organizations, hosting, e.g., an idea contest among their members.  I am curious to see how this field will develop!
10 07, 2012

Conference Report MC2012: The German Mass Customization Community Meeting

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:16+00:00 Juli 10th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Cases-Industrial, Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, MC/OI on the Web, Offline Customization, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, Research Studies, Service Customization, Technologies & Enablers|

Copyright FH Salzburg, http://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=fh%20salzburg&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFoQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fh-salzburg.ac.at%2F&ei=EoPxT5vBMqqg4gTRqfncDQ&usg=AFQjCNFVR6AyMuGxHyBpGzKbuuuWdY_6jQ&cad=rja, all rights reserved!Unless you started following my blog just now, there is no way you could potentially have missed the announcements, special editions and features about the MC2012. This year's edition of the largest MC conference in German language, hosted by Dominik Walcher, Paul Blazek and myself, took place on 29th of June.

Despite the early time of day, the air already started to flicker from the upcoming heat of what promissed to be a really nice summer day at the marvellously desgined building of the University of Applied Sciences near edge of the Alp mountains in Salzburg, Austria.

About 150 professionals, researchers, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts from all parts of the mass customization landscape in the German experienced a tightly packed day dedicated to the opportunities of customer co-design.

Copyright TIM Lehrstuhl, www.tim.rwth-aachen.de, all rights reserved!

Panoramic audience shot. Click to enlarge!

And what a day it was! A buzzing audience followed the presentations of no less than 24 speakers, ranging from young entrepreneurs, telling the tale of their entrance into the MC market, global players and market leaders, giving insight into proven ways and tactics to profit from customer participation, to leading scholars, showing how latest research proves the concept of the integrated customer to be more than a trend.

To not only preach customer integration but actually live up to our words and integrate our conference participants beyond questions and one-on-one networking, we had a special feature in place. Werner Haring, founder and CEO of wallero.us, had contributed to the event's multi media experience by "installing" a social media wall right next to the stage.

Copyright Profilfoto von CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, all rights reserved!

Social Media Wall, Courtesy of wallero.us. Click to enlarge!

This application was a real eye-catcher and various running gags were born during the course of the event – and you still can follow the #MCSalzburg hashtag for a report of the conference.

 The day headed off with the introductory panel. After a hearty welcome by co-host Dominik Walcher, my research group's members Dr. Christoph Ihl and Thorsten Harzer outlined results from our research projects and demonstrated some of the numerical "magic" behind Mass Customization and Open Innovation and how it can be utilized to take the right decisions about mission-critical aspects that many companies do not even realize to be of great importance.

As an example: asked about the ideal number of customization options to offer in your configurator (solution space), would your answer have been: "As many as possible, since more choice equals happier customers!"? If your answer to this is "yes" then our latest resarch findings might offer some ways to improve your customer satisfaction.

Following Dominik Walcher's insight into the development and outcome of the MC500, our great study of the most important MC companies from around the world, I had the chance to present on the importance of customer integration and how companies of all sizes can profit from proper employment of the concept, as well as some new MC trends of the future.

Next on the agenda was the market panel in which Franz Blach (IDEO), Franz Hölzl (Kaindl) and Wolfgang Gruel (Daimler) gave really interesting and well-received insight how Open Innovation, individualization and co-creation have changed the way they are conducting their business and the ways they found to profit from it:

  • An interesting attempt at improvement of working culture were IDEO's working ethics, as Franz Blach outlined them. They are meant to be pretty much contrary to what we are used to in most larger companies these days. Instead of perfectionism and pressure, IDEO deems a culture in which close teamwork, prototypical work (things do not have to be perfect in their first iteration, can evolve and develop), error tolerancy and more fun are the key principles. While there is certainly more to a successful innovation company, this is certainly an approach favorable by many employees.
  • Franz Hölzl demonstrated how Kaindl was able to offer a totally new way to produce wooden flooring, printed with individual patterns and colors, in great looking quality. Because of their production technology and business model, they can deliver a much more customized product at a significantly lower price.
  • Wolfgang Gruel finally brought up the question if/why it is necessary that privately owned cars are often used in a really inefficient way, standing in the driveway most of the time and usually being too large for most of the time they are used. Daimler has been working on models to counter this development by employing car sharing, car pooling and affordable renting models. Nothing revolutionary new, you will say, but this time it is being done large-scale, by an international company, and not your small start-up next door. It will be interesting to observe whether Daimler can actually change something about the status quo or if the highly valued status symbol "car" will remain untouched by the means of sheer efficiency.


Original images copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl , collage copyright TIM Group, all rights reserved!

Some captures of our speakers. Click to enlarge!

Next: the social media panel, moderated by Paul Blazek: For all those planning to integrate social media into their PR strategy as well, talks by Martina Partl and Clarissa Streichsbier of cyLEDGE were as insightful as Catharina van Delden's summary of her company innosabi's (unserAller, anybody?) work. Renate Gruber gave the finishing presentation about how her venture CupCakes made its way from a traditional food company onto the MC market:

  • Partl and Streichsbier pointed out that, while social media in regards to mass customization was nothing new anymore, the combination of social media and open innovation are a perfect match. This is certainly true in so far as open innovation per definition relies on participation and hence any media that is suited to increase awareness is potentially supportive for any OI initiative.

    Interestingly they chose Facebook as an example for a customizable information source. The important role of facebook as a customer relationship tool was stressed by all speakers in this panel. Certainly will be interesting to see if/how companies think of now ways to even better employ the platform for their needs. 

During the lunch break, there was time to check the 20+ exhibitors. Some had even set up live demonstrations of their product offers, like Pasterie, supporting us with freshly made pasta or CowCrowd, demoing their lovely wooden pendants, individualized on-location with your own image and/or custom text.

Next: The start-up panel, hosted by MC-blogging colleague Heiko Vogelgesang (egoo.de). Here, Sabine Beck gave an amazing presentation about how her jewlery business Amoonic manages to mix pre-configured and individually customized rings and more in a great portfolio that every manager dreams about: produced entirely on demand, without any significant need for storage space or the risk of wasting materials.

Interestingly, their configurator is not even visible if you enter their website. At first (and actually second) glance you will not notice anything hinting at the possibility to customize a ring. The configuration options do become visible, however, once you have decided upon one of the preconfigured designs. These can then be individualized using a wide variety of options. Possible combinations of gold, silver and gems of all kinds range from 150 to 2.5 million Euro. Certainly something in this for everybody.

However, from my own testing I found it hard to even find out that you can individualize the rings. You have to actually select one before a respective button appears and that could be a serious usability drawback in my opinion as many potential customers might not even recognize the potential of the store. It does, however, explain why about 40% of their sales are actually preconfigured, non-customized rings. Anyways though, with the average customer leaving between 400-500 Euro in their shop, the concept will certainly be profitable – especially since there are very low fix costs.

Next up was Stickvogel, a promissing start-up which specialized in embroiding and etching all kinds of motives into all kinds of goods. Lately they teamed up with major retailer Butlers, offering custom stitching to customers in Butlers' shops. This B2B customization service concept will certainly be exciting to follow over the (hopefully) next years.

Closing presentation of this panel was helt by Carina Schichl and Tanja Sieder, representing their business for unique custom travel guides, Nectar&Pulse, based on insider tips by what they call "soulmates" rather than generalized all-round information. Locals give their best tips for tourists which are then, upon checking, transformed into nicely layouted guides. While this is certainly an interesting idea per se, the issue I see with it is that the product might not be easy to market. As Schichl and Sieder pointed out, their target group originally were younger people. Instead, most of their customers are 30+. While their choice of age clustering is certainly debatable (and lead to one of the mentioned running gags of this conference), this raises the question: do they actually have the right product for the right market? If their average customer's age is above what they expected, they would likely be well advised to adapt to a different kind of information and layout which fits the needs of this target group better.

Next up was the retail panel. Moderator Jochen Krisch (excitingcommerce) did an outstanding job leading through an exciting lineup of big names: Former Bundesliga-athlete Sven Renz showed how his product line of completely customized ski/sports shoes has blessed his company with a yearly growth of 20-50%. However, I expect there to be an even larger potential in this market, seeing how ErtlRenz still "only" sold 2400 pairs of shoe at their peak last year.

Original images copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, collage copyright TIM Group, all rights reserved!

Some captures of the exhibition. Click to enlarge!

Claudia Kieserling, winner of this year's much-noticed Million-Dollar-Challenge by Zazzle, gave a short overview of individual shoe manufacturer selve, showing off some of the models availible to women around the world and giving some interesting insight upon questions from the audience. She especially stressed the importance of the customer's shopping experience, which should be more than just pushing a button and receiving a cardboard box.

A great final presenation in this block came from Max Kickinger. His soundbranding company is known for its work with some major companies like Porsche, Swarovski and many more. Commenting on a truly excellent video he explained how companies use clever sound branding to gain the consumers attention – often without him realizing to be guided towards the "right" shelve – and the checkout counter!

Following another networking break, the final panel of the day: The configurator panel, presented and moderated by Alexander Felfering of Graz University, had the technical side of customer integration covered.

Copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, all rights reserved!

Coffee-Break is over, back to the conference room, Alp-Style!

Andreas Falkner (SIEMENS) spoke about the challenges of complex product configuration, especially where multiple dependencies between customizable factors are to be respected (a good example why companies should reffer to an expert instead of just trying to headjump into the MC market).

Marc Herling of Lumo Graphics demonstrated how the use of 3D-configurators can be a blessing for the consumer who can imagine the to-buy product way better than it would be the case with just some images. With more advanced configurators, he says, the concept of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) will more and more be replaced by YGWYW – You

[actually] Get What You Want.

On the other hand, developing a really well working, appealing 3D-configurator takes a lot more than the amount of work it costs to "just" shoot said product images. Hence, as with so many cases of exploiting new technological opportunities, its a balancing act and might often not be profitable for small companies.

HYVE's Volker Bilgram was up next. In his "Toolkits for Gamification" speech he explained how and why the aspect of playing – adding features that make the process of configuring/buying a product more fun than just an annoying act of shopping – can contribute to a retailer's sales figures. Again: If done correctly!

To complete this panel, Klaus Pilsl of IndiValue spoke about web based configurators and their part in the customer's shopping experience. His company is about to launch a major new "configurator as a (web) service" — something that has been tried for many years, but now finally may become true.

Copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, all rights reserved!My personal conclusions of this year's MC2012:

 (1) MC has great potential to significantly improve a company's sales figures and customer brand loyalty. However, to make it work successfully, more is needed than just to put up a fancy-looking configurator and then wait for clients.

Especially the dialog with the (potential) client is and will be even more important in the future, as more and more companies employ easily accessable social platforms like Facebook to communicate with their crowd. And a lot of both promissing start-ups and established companies could profit immensely from experienced coaching since, as Christoph Ihl had pointed out at the very beginning, even the right choice of customization options (not to be confused with as many options as possible!) can make or break your MC business. 

(2) Mass Customization needs to be less outcome-driven and to be looked upon from a higher, more meta-perspective to develop it further. I believe we know a lot about nice and perhaps even profitable BtoC consumer products. But what about MC services that tackle some of our true global challenges?

(3) Finally, the German MC community really is a nice crowd of great individuals, very eager to collaborate, to share ideas and experiences, and to network!

Looking back on a fantastic conference I truly want to thank everybody who made this possible, may it be as a speaker or a guest, an exhibitor or supportive staff member. Special thanks do go to my dear co-hosts Paul Blazek and of course Dominik Walcher, who did an outstanding job organizing this large event with his team at Salzburg University!

Copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, all rights reserved!

(Most of) our speakers! Click to enlarge!

28 06, 2012

MC2012: These Companies Will Participate at the German MC Community Meeting Today

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:34+00:00 Juni 28th, 2012|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Mc2012banner2Today's expert workshop marks the beginning of the MC2012, largest OI and MC conference in German language. If you have been following my tweets and posts over the past weeks you can tell that we are all really excited about this event, and from the registrations we can tell that we are by far not the only ones. 

This year we will be more than glad to welcome MC/ OI enthusiasts from the most different of branches, all coming together in Salzburg to speak, listen, discuss, learn, teach and network. Amongst our guests this year will be the following companies and institutions (alphabetical order):

  • a misura GmbH
  • Agentur Christoffer
  • Algo Gmbh
  • Amoonic
  • Bayer AG
  • BCCS
  • Beiersdorf AG
  • Berger Feinste Confiserie
  • BioArt AG
  • Boston Consulting Group
  • CAYS
  • Coworking Salzburg
  • CupCakes Wien
  • Customate / Carglam
  • cyLEDGE
  • Daimler AG
  • DEO
  • Drei Gürteltiere
  • egoo
  • ErtlRenz
  • excitingcommerce
  • Fachhochschule Köln
  • FH Salzburg
  • Fish IT
  • Gabriele BCCS
  • Gerd Wiberg
  • Heinemann Retail
  • HHL Leipzig
  • HYVE
  • IDEO
  • ikarusbison
  • IndiValue
  • innosabi GmbH
  • ITG
  • KAAN Veranstaltungen
  • Kaindl Flooring
  • KHK GmbH
  • Kickinger Soundbranding
  • KTM
  • Lingerie Couturier
  • Lumo Graphics
  • Mars GmbH
  • Meiberger Holzbau
  • Mozart Distillerie
  • mysaftbar
  • Nectar & Pulse
  • New Media Marketing
  • Open Experience GmbH
  • P-Hold GmbH
  • PersonalNOVEL
  • phenomene GmbH & Co. KG
  • Pixelution
  • Privatbrauerei Trumer
  • proHolz Salzburg
  • RealNetworks GmbH
  • Reiser + Partner Beratung
  • RHIEM Services
  • RWTH Aachen
  • Salzburg Research
  • SBS Software GmbH
  • Schlosserei Meissl
  • Selve – Shoe Individualizer
  • Seminar Shop
  • senova
  • Shirtinator AG
  • Stickvogel
  • The Grip
  • Therme Erding Familienbad
  • TU Dresden
  • TU Graz
  • Universität für Bodenkultur / Wien
  • W&H Dentalwerk
  • Wunschfutter GmbH

We are looking forward to a really great conference with all of you who will be there. And those who can not attend this time, worry not: I will give an overview over the MC2012 here within the next days. 

26 06, 2012

Featured Research: Collaborating with Customer Communities: Lessons from the Lego Group

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:43+00:00 Juni 26th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies|

Our series on featured research articles continues. Today I want to recommend a paper by fellow researchers Yun Mi Antorini (Aarhus University) and Albert M. Muñiz, Jr. (DePaul University, Chicago) as well as Tormod Askildsen (LEGO Group). They tell the story of how LEGO learned to use sophisticated crowd interaction for mutual benefit and explain some core rules of co-creation.

MIT sloan review coverCollaborating With Customer Communities: Lessons From the LEGO Group

By: Yun Mi Antorini, Albert M. Muñiz, Jr.and Tormod Askildsen

Availible at: MIT Sloan Review


Lego users have a long tradition of innovation and sharing their innovations with one another — activities that the Internet has made much easier.Long before evreyone was talking about co-creation and user  communities, LEGO fans had "Lugnet", a universe of niche communities of people sharing their creations in LEGO.

As Lego managers became more aware of innovations by the company’s adult fans, the managers realized that at least some of the adult fans’ ideas would be interesting to the company’s core target market of children.

Historically, Lego was an extremely private company that tightly controlled its products and intellectual property. The company’s public position was “We don’t accept unsolicited ideas.”

However, things began to change in the late 1990s following the introduction of a new line of kits called Lego Mindstorms, which contained software and hardware to create small customizable and programmable robots. Sophisticated users found ways to hack into the code and adapt the new products; they talked about their innovations on independent websites.

This presented Lego management with a choice: either pursue legal action against the hackers or invite users to collaborate on new products and applications. The company concluded that litigation would be difficult and costly — and also that there could be significant advantages to collaborating with users.

Through trial and error, Lego has developed a solid understanding of what it takes to build and maintain profitable and mutually beneficial collaborations with users.

In their paper, Antorini, Muniz and Askildsen examine the emergence of Lego’s user communities, how management’s involvement with user groups has evolved and the five core principles that Lego has formulated for successful interaction with its user groups:

  • To be clear abour rules and expectations
  • To ensure a win-win
  • To recognize that outsiders are not insiders
  • Not to expect one size to fit all (different approaches/ platforms might be needed for different audiences) and
  • To be as open as possible

Read the full article at MIT Sloan Management Review!

25 06, 2012

MC2012: Connect on Facebook, Follow on Twitter!

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:46+00:00 Juni 25th, 2012|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Deutsch (in German), Events, Open/User Innovation, Personalization|


Three day left and counting: June 28th our major event of this month, the MC2012, largest conference on Mass Customization and Open Innovation in German language, will head off with the  – already sold out – business workshop. There are still tickets left for the conference/ exhibition on friday, though! So if you are going to be in (or near) Austria on the 29th of this month, get your reservation here and meet us in Salzburg!

We would also be glad to exchange with you on all topics MC and OI via the official conference Facebook page!

And even if you can not come visit us in person you can still stay in the loop by following @MCSalzburg, the offical conference Twitter account.

Looking forward to see you on the MC2012!