The CEC Co-Design Contest: Open Innovation in the Footwear Industry

A year ago, I reported about the CEC User Co-Design Contest. Now, the results are in and the experiment is over. In the following guest article, Angelika Bullinger and Erik Hansen report about the contest. They are working at TUM Business School and were the project leaders of this contest. Here is their report:

During the last three to four years, we have seen a dramatic surge in interest in the principle of “open innovation”. “Open innovation” means the involvement of customers and other partners in the innovation process. By their creative input, many companies are significantly increasing their ability to source powerful products.

But how to meet with the creative minds outside your company?

For European shoe manufactures, an answer to this question is provided by the “CEC Co-Design Community (CE3C)”, a web-based platform that enables the integration of customers in the innovation process. The platform provides combinable modules for the interaction of the company with its customers and partners. For example, in the “mindstyle module”, customers get an analysis of their preferred style by intuitively selecting pictures out of number of photographs. The manufacturer gets information which trends are currently “hot”.

In another module, “product configuration” those shoes in the collection which can be customized are shown. By the data on individualized shoes, manufacturers are informed about customers’ preferences. Especially in combination, the modules of CE3C provide shoe manufacturers with rich information on their current consumers’ preferences. 

But preferences of current customers are not enough to your company? You want really innovative designs and get to know their creators? In this case, the “idea contest” is your solution. An idea contest is a forum in which passionate contributors from all over the world can exercise their creativity on account of a topic defined by the organisator. Prizes – and the recognition by the company – generate interest and drive participation. Typically, one company organizes an idea contest and submitted ideas are judged by a panel of employees.

The idea contest module of CE3C has already been very successfully tested – the “CEC Shoe Design Contest” was run between October and December 2007 on the platform. To involve customers more closely, a voting functionality allowed users to express their opinion on the submitted shoe designs. User votings were integrated the final decision-making on the winning designs.

The results of the CEC Shoe Design Contest have been very satisfying to the involved shoe manufacturers: In total, 63 highly innovative designs have been submitted. The active community of interested users (and submitters) has about 400 members who stem from nearly 50 countries around the globe. Both the unusual size of the community and the number of high-quality submissions indicate the power of the idea contest module of CE3C. The winning designs are currently manufactured and companies are getting in touch with the creative minds behind the designs.

You also want an idea contest for your company?
You would like to meet with the still unknown designers? The CEC CoDesign Community (CE3C) stands ready for adaptation to your company’s particularities – and the established community only waits for the next idea contest on account of a thrilling topic. Let’s thus integrate and innovate!

For more information, contact Angelika Bullinger or Erik Hansen.

Here are some more results of the first contest in form of pictures:





About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.