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!

2 01, 2013

[Featured Research] Designing the Organization for User Innovation

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:52+00:00 Januar 2nd, 2013|Featured Research, Open/User Innovation|

Our series on featured research articles continues. Today I want to recommend a paper by fellow researchers Peter Keinz, Christoph Hienerth and Christopher Lettl. In their paper they focus on the paradigm shift from producer-centered towards user-centered processes.

Cover_issue_823_en_USDesigning the Organization for User Innovation

By Peter Keinz, Christoph Hienerth & Christopher Lettl

Availible at: Journal of Organization Design

 There is increasing consensus among practitioners and academics alike that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift from producer-centered and internal innovation processes toward user-centered and open innovation processes.

This paradigm shift induces significant changes to the design of organizations. Even though the research field of user innovation has been developing over a period of more than four decades, there have been only occasional intersections with the research field of organizational design. In this article, the authors aim to provide an integrated perspective of the two fields. Therefore they first identify major user innovation strategies and then derive the implications for each user innovation strategy on key dimensions of organizational design.

After outlining existing user innovation approaches, the authors continue to explain the need for organizational (re-)design when employing user innovation strategies. They then present design principles for companies employing user innovation strategies, followed by a detailed discussion of their findings (so far). 

In this video, Christopher Lettl explaines the central topic of their research for this paper. 

Designing the Organization for User Innovation from JOD on Vimeo.

Read the full article at Journal of Organization Design, Vol. 1, No. 3 (2012)!

23 12, 2012

TIM in the MIX: Vote for Our Hack at the HBR M-Prize: Global solutions, local failure: Overcoming barriers in implementing open innovation

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:54+00:00 Dezember 23rd, 2012|Crowdsourcing, Featured Research, OI Market Study, Open/User Innovation|

Hbr-mck-mixOur group has been invited to participate at the HBR-McKinsey M-Prize . Now we need your support! If you want to see our proposal outlined below become a winning idea, please head over to the official website and "like" our idea: Global solutions, local failure – Overcoming barriers in implementing open innovation
For those not familiar with the M-Prize, here is a short summary from their official website:

The Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) is an open innovation project aimed at reinventing management for the 21st century. The MIX is based on the premise that management is nothing less than the technology of human accomplishment and that, after 100 years of incremental tweaks, it now needs to be reinvented for a new age.
The M-Prize is the MIX’s call to management innovators (and aspiring management innovators) around the world to make a real difference when it comes to improving management thinking and practice.

Here is a short summary of our submission:
Many companies today pilot open innovation (OI) and crowdsourcing, but only few are making it a permanent practice. A consortium of six German SMEs finds that OI can radically improve the productivity of technical problem solving, but demands strong internal promotors and dedicated processes to overcome resistance and barriers.
You can find the full proposal here! Thank you for your support!!

PS: The topic of implementing open innovation in an established firm also is the theme of our upcoming European Open Innovation Practicioner Program.

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.

11 09, 2012

[Book Review] The Innovation Machine – a practice-focused way to implement a corporate innovation management system

By | 2018-06-14T06:53:57+00:00 September 11th, 2012|Books, Open/User Innovation|

TheinnovationmachineRolf Wentz
has been a C-level manager and CEO in many large corporations, mainly in the field of FMCG. Today, he worrks as an active investor in start ups.We have the privilege to have him in our ranks of lecturers of practice at RWTH Aachen.

Dr. Wentz has been author of a successful German book on innovation management. Now, this book has been translated into English, in a new and updated version with plenty of case studies.

The Innovation Machine, by Dr. Rolf Wentz. Published by CreateSpace, 2012.

In order to launch successful
innovations on a sustainable basis in frequent order, most
companies have to transform themselves. What they need is an innovation
management system whose components are consistent and, preferably,
self-reinforcing. Vision, objectives, strategy, culture, process,
structure & systems and competencies must be aligned.

In his book Rolf Wentz
demonstrates how the world´s best innovators such as Apple, Google,
Microsoft, IBM, Toyota, Amazon, GE, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, BMW,
etc., which the author calls innovation machines, succeed at this.
By means of various case studies and based on his own practical
experience, Wentz describes how the use of the innovation
management systems will make a company successful, and he lays out the
change management to transform firms into innovation machines.

doing this, he uses storytelling and the vivid language of a
practitioner. The conclusions and main indicated actions at the end of
each chapter plus worksheets and checklists support the practitioner in
the implementation.

WentzIn an online interview, we asked Rolf Wentz some questions about his new book — and innovation management in general.

FTP: Innovation
as a critical element of any future-ready corporate strategy is not new to most
companies. Likewise there is a large number of more or less useful books on
that topic. What sets “The Innovation Machine” apart from the myriad of already
existing innovation guides?

RW: "The Innovation Machine" differs from other books on
innovation management in three major aspects: (1) I take a holistic view, i.e. do not only deal with some selective aspects of innovation management
but cover all relevant components that make up the innovation management
system such as vision, objectives, strategy; culture; process; structure &
systems and competencies.

(2) The "Innovation Machine" makes use of a large number of extensive
international case studies of top innovators in order to illustrate the key
points about the innovation management system. Although the case studies
of  U.S. companies still constitute the majority, the book also offers
various case studies of European (Zara, Nestlé, BMW, SAP) and of
Asian innovation champions (Sony, Toyota, Samsung, Hyundai).

(3) Based on my long experience working in leading
managerial roles inside multinational companies like P&G, SC Johnson
and Campbell´s, and now as a business angel, I focus on the practical challenges of innovation management.

your book you demonstrate successful innovation based on cases like Apple,
Google, Microsoft and other certainly successful but also rather large
multinational corporations.  Are the implications drawn from these cases
relevant (or, useful) for SME as well?

RW: Absolutely. Most of the implications such as those concerning vision,
innovation objectives, innovation strategy, innovation culture, innovation
process and innovation structure are also very relevant for SMEs which
typically have limited innovation resources and, in particular, a limited
innovation budget. 

Just to illustrate this by means of one
example: major progress can be achieved by SMEs by e.g. starting a radical
innovation effort with a tiny two-person team (e.g. one engineer, one
commercial person) with the two team members being co-located and fully
dedicated to the project. The required resources and budget will
be manageable for a SME. There are only some few recommendations that,
because of their more elevated cost, are more useful for larger corporations
than SMES such as the acquisition of competencies via the acquisition of other

FTP: How did you adopt your book from your earlier German boon into a new English edition?

RW: Although “The Innovation Machine” (in English)
builds on the same conceptual foundation as “Die Innovationsmaschine” (in
German) ,it hast been vastly updated and modified in some major aspects.

particular, I have added a completely new chapter about innovation competencies
(Chapter 11), majorly enriched the chapter on structure and systems for
managing innovations (Chapter 10), and added many new case studies such as
those of Amazon, BMW, Hyundai, IBM, Nestlé Nespresso, Samsung and Zara.
Furthermore, I have added worksheets and checklists to many chapters in order
to increase the value for the innovation practitioner.

FTP: Thank you! I hope that the book will sell well and, first of all, help many practicioners to become better innovation leaders.

29 08, 2012

The next big trend in innovation management: Reverse Innovation: A book review and how does this relate to open innovation

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:15+00:00 August 29th, 2012|Books, Cases-Industrial, General, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies|

Reverse Innovation as seen by Google Image Search

Reverse Innovation as seen by Google Image Search

I am sometimes asked what is the next big trend in innovation management. Given a number of recent discussions and observations, I would now bet high stakes that "Reverse Innovation" will be the idea that will shape our understanding of innovation management a lot in the next years.


The term reverse innovation, in short, describes how innovations made in the so-called developing countries can often lay the foundations for product innovations in the "developed" world. More often than not, these are relatively cheap yet efficient new concepts which can seriously callenge products on an existing "western" market — they often are a source of disruptive innovation.

Developing countries are catching up on the knowledge- and technology gap and with that comes an increased chance for major innovations to be born in these countries. And this is where open innovation thinking comes into play: 

  • First, we know from lead user research that lead users often develop novel innovations under extreme conditions. Developing countries often provide these extreme conditions (budget, but also climate or working conditions) — hence leading to a high incentive to innovate in a functional novel way.
  •  Second, a core idea of OI is to get input from unobvious others — this is where broadcast search helps a lot. And developing countries offer a great potential for "unobvious" sources of ideas.
  • Third, when established companies develop a product for a new market that demands a "good enough" solution that only costs 10% of the comparable established "western" product, they are often forced to look into very new fields and approaches — input that often only can be acquired by looking beyond the firm's borders.

Hence, for established companies, reverse innovation offers both a source often "open" thinking and input for the own innovation process, and at the same time demands new approaches and networks.

 If you want to learn more about reverse innovation, there is one book to read:

Copyright Harward Business Review Press, all rights reserved!Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere

Written by: Vijay Govindarajan, Chris Trimble, Indra K. Nooyi (Foreword)

Availible at Amazon: Hardcover Edition, Kindle Edition

Prof. Vijay Govindarajan
( Tuck School of Business ) is the leading scholar researching this field. Together with his collegue Chris Trimble he has recently published his new book about the topic which I read in my recent summer vacation.

The book is an easy read: In part one, Govindarajan and Trimble describe in rather brief form how major companies are beginning to realize that the popular concept of glocalization is not necessarily the best approch to conquer new markets. They describe the flaws on the concept and why reverse innovation promisses better results in many cases.

Glocalization refers to the business concept often associated with the saying "Think Global, Act Local", in practice realized by taking an already existing product and adapting it to new target markets. If the target market is part of the developing world, these adaptions are usually severe downgrades.

Govindarajan/Trimble explain that these downgraded products are in fact often not what the target market needs – or even wants. Each market requires products fitting it's specific needs and given resources. And that is something that can often no be achieved by just stripping product features to allow a cheapter retail price.

The authors show how reverse innovation can help to overcome this barrier. By inventing locally, right at the target market, instead of at home, far away from the conditions and actual customers, companies can be enabled to develop the exactly right product for the market – not a stripped down version of an existing good.

While reverse innovation is the more risky, more pricy alternative at first glance, and many internal and external obstacles have to be overcome, the described advantages are remarkable: Not only can a company better tackle local markets in the developing world. Products invented abroad have a high potential of being cheaper, offent radically innovative and can potentially be engineered to become suitable alternatives for existing products on the companie's home market as well. The innovations made abroad come back home: Reverse innovation.

Part two of the book has eight business cases in which the conecpt is applied and explained why it is advantageous over other approaches. These include companies like Logitech, P&G, EMC, Deere, Harman, GE Healthcare and PepsiCo.

So, in conclsuion, a very interesting concept, and important idea, and a good read!

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!


20 07, 2012

Featured Research: Open Innovation in the German Automobile Industry

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:55+00:00 Juli 20th, 2012|Cases-Industrial, Crowdsourcing, Deutsch (in German), Featured Research, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies|

Copyright Ili Consulting, www.ili-consulting.de, all rights reserved!German cars are the best in the world. While I can see this statement instantly being challenged by some, the international reputation of and demand for German cars, especially in the high price segment is pretty high.

A brand new study by German innovation expert Ili Consulting shows that the advantages of open innovation have been understood by managers of German car manufacturers and their suppliers.

While companies like BMW, Audi, or Daimler have been forrunners in customer co-creaton via ideation contests, I did not see much OI on the technical level in German Big Auto.

This 2012 edition of the study "Open Innovation in der Automobilindustrie" is the second iteration after a similar survey in 2009. Comparison impressively shows that more and more of the asked managers on the middle, higher and top level follow the trend to get their company's research from a closed to an open one, thereby laying grounds for the harvest of the great innovation potential that the crowd of consumers is.


Copyright Ili Consulting, www.ili-consulting.de, all rights reserved!

Comparison chart of manager's answers from the 2009 and 2012 iterations of the study. Clear shift towards open innovation

As has been said by many participating mangers, highly innovative ideas are short in supply. These are, however, one of the most valuable goods a technology company can have, and also the most important advantage Germany has on the international market.

The understanding that the old credo of "we have all the experts we need in house" no longer works in todays fast, interconnected markets and that flexibility and openness for external input, both for criticism and ideas, is crucial to mission success, has finally gotten a solid foothold in headquarters of majors and SMEs alike.

Open innovation is, however, not as easy as putting a website up, asking for ideas. There is much more to it to successfully tap into the wisdom reservoir of the crowd, and without competent guidance by experienced innovation consultants, opening oneself's knowledge stock up to the masses can be a risky venture.

For those of you engaged in businesses where your market share and revenues depend on technological advantage and satisfied customers (not only car-industry specific), the  study may hold some very interesing findings regarding the market, the progress from open to closed innovation, sources of innovation and their rating by practitioners as well as actual obstacles one will face when opening innovation.

The study can be obtained by contacting Ili Consulting directly. For contact information please refer to the contact section of their homepage (while writing about open innovation,, they were not open enough to provide the study as "open access").

14 07, 2012

Open Alps: Cross-National Innovation Support for SME in the Alp Region

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:10+00:00 Juli 14th, 2012|MC/OI on the Web, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers|

OpenaplsA little while ago I posted about the Top Technology Cluster (TTC) project, an initiative to foster and fund open innovation in amongst SME and partners in the greater Euregio Meuse-Rheine region (where my home university Aachen is placed). Their goal is to promote (consortial) cooperation between SME from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

PartnersA comparable yet larger project is Open Alps. The program, part of the "European Territorial Cooperation" initiative, is organized and conducted by nine partners from Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. The goal is to support SMEs in their innovation processes with external partners, and to promote the establishment of such cross-border cooperation in the first place.

Much like with the TTC, international linking is the key aspect here. While the famous term of globalization does still mainly apply to large, multinational companies, SME can especially profit from cooperations with partners, large and small, from neighbouring countries, both in one-on-one and larger consortial dimensions.

Unfortunately, there are the usual barriers one has to face when considering to extend business across the border. Open innovation can help to overcome these barriers, especially in regards to the outside-in approach, enabling SMEs to get in touch upon one broadcasting a problem that another can solve.

Open Alps is heading off to support such ventures with a threefold approach. Besides efforts to spread the word of OI, making actors on the market aware of the existance of the approach and its benefits, the program is working on the establishment of so called Open Innovation Labs in all participating areas.

These will then focus on region-specific topics and markets in order to inform and incubate exemplaric cooperations that can be role-models for other SME and get the stone rolling, so to say.

Furthermore (and especially interesting to monitor from a scientist's point of view) there will be special online platform soon, which will support the initiative's goals through active broadcast search and idea contests. This way, hopefully, SME's (and possibly additional larger companies') need information will be matched with solutions from other SME in the region.

It will be interesting to follow the development of this European Union-funded program. Preparing working packages are mostly completed by now from what I hear, and within the next months, labs and online platform will be established and opened for interested companies.

When time comes, we will take a closer look at the platform and its capabilities. Until then, Open Alps informs about all news and launches on their official project website.

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!

9 07, 2012

Conference Review OI2012: Leading Open Innovation Experts Meet in London

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:22+00:00 Juli 9th, 2012|Events, Open/User Innovation|

Logo_imperial_college_londonLast week I attended what might have been one of most profilic gathering of leading OI scholars in the last decade, the OI2012. In the halls of Imperial College 60 attendees from around the world listened to and vividly discussed the papers presented by the 34 plenary authors.

The conference was organized to prepare for a  special issue  of Research Policy, entitled “Open Innovation: New Insights and Evidence".

My dear collegue Joel West has covered the entire event in great detail on his blog so instead of repeating most of what he has already posted I recommend you head over there to read more about this really productive and colloquial event.

Overall, my impressions of this event:

– Finally, no one talks about "why to innovate openly" anymore, but it was all about "how". Especially the topic of governance of open innovation was really strongly there.

– The open innovation community is very much still focused on traditional forms of collaboration and networking. More recent, informal forms of collaboration do not really play a major role, and also the role of user innovators was not really strongly present at the event.

– We finally get much more empirical, large scale data on open innovation — helping us to explain patterns and broader "promising practices" in the field.

And on a personal side: The OI community is really a very nice group of scholars, and the four hosts, Henry Chesbrough, Joel West, Ammon Salter, and Wim Vanhaverbeke did a great job in preparing the conference and providing detailed feedback on each paper. A great and very much appreciated service!


2 07, 2012

Wrap Up: Top Technology Clusters Mid-Term Event: Open Innovation in the Greater EMR Area

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:32+00:00 Juli 2nd, 2012|Events, Open/User Innovation, Wrap Up|

Copyright AGIT, www.agit.de, all rights reserved!Few weeks ago I wrote about the then-upcoming mid-term even of the Top Technology Cluster, an initiative started by companies and institutions from the Euregio Meuse-Rheine to foster cross-border colaboration between SMEs (and potentially additional larger consortia partners).

Last friday the event headed off here in Aachen. About 130 participants representing companies, academia and NGOs from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany came together to follow the presentations which were charmingly moderated by Simone van Trier.

After the official welcome and interoducing words by our city's mayor, Marcel Philipp, my dear guest Prof. Joel West gave a comprehensive overview over the term "Open Innovation", it's roots and implications.

Copyright AGIT, www.agit.de, all rights reserved!Following his presentation I helt my own talk about how OI can impact the research and development opportunities of SME and help them to discover completely new solutions to problems they might have never been able to solve without the crowd.

The first block was completed by Jingshu Du's discussion of the impact of OI on SMEs in the Euregio.

In the following interview that Simone van Trier conducted with AGIT representative Ralf Meyer and Theo Hommels from the Industriebank LIOF it became obvious which great opportunities the TTC initiative offers to SME in the Euregio.

Companies having promissing ideas for cooperative business and research but lacking sufficient funds to kick off can apply for innovation vouchers, worth 5.000 Euro each. Furthermore, more though-out consortial cooperation projects can receive grants up to 250.000 Euro under the Bordercrossing Cluster Stimulus program.

Copyright AGIT, www.agit.de, all rights reserved!Walking the talk, two innovative companies were awarded the very first two vouchers live on stage.

After a short refreshment break we headed into the second part of the conference. Five innovative companies from the Euregio each got 10 minutes on-stage to present their business and it's revolutionary idea as well as problems they are facing in bringing the product to market.

These five managers (Jeroen Rondeel, Pulseform, Rolf Call, Irmato Industrial Solutions, Edwin Currie, Kriya Materials, Ulrich Wirtz, WSE ltd. and Dirk De Keukeleere, AnSem) then assembled on stage to get into a lively discussion with Simone van Trier and the audience.

Copyright AGIT, www.agit.de, all rights reserved!During this debate it came across that many companies do already use OI to support their business growth (even though they do not necessarily recognize that there is an actual term, OI, for their activities).

However, one issue entrepreneurs are often facing appears to be the cultural differences between people in the three neighbouring countries. While these can be overcome in most cases, language and different levels of openness towards new, external cooperation proposals do at least cause a certain delay and require dedicated work before would-be partners can actually dive into the core materia of their potential common venture.

The TTC vouchers and grants have been seen as a great help to get some new initiatives started and up to speed. The combination of the easier to get vouchers, fostering research of possibilities, and the actually incubating stimulus grant are perceived as an incentive and support to look into new possibilities cross-border.

Overall it was a successful, very nice event in a familiar atmosphere. Despite the unusually sunny weather and the heat that came with it, many good and interesting points were debated with a cold head and in the concluding get-together, lots of new contacts were made, opinions exchanged and new ventures discussed.

I am certainly looking forward to the next TTC event and to see how the program will develop until then. If you happen to work for an SME in the Euregio, the TTC website might be worth to stop by for you for further information.

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!