October 12, 2010 at 6:57pm
The status quo business model assumes that companies create products and sell them to customers. Why not eliminate all product development folks, let customers solve their own problems and charge them money for it? Why not let leaders forget their everyday leadership jobs and play a different role by acting as customers? Why not let your customers act as leaders?
Traditional companies have product managers (and leaders) with limited or semi-guessed knowledge of customer needs. They also have product development folks who interpret requirements from their leaders and work way out of context and away from customers. Both groups of people cost money. Both groups represent financial and HR risk. Both groups have human imperfections.
The firm essentially has to pay its people to guess what customers want and develop the product based on the guess, while also paying for it.
Change the company's business model to that of a facilitator of a community of customers that get together to solve their own problems. Get rid of product development folks. Reposition your leaders (and/or product managers) to join the community of customers and help facilitate the discussion.
(1) Let's say you run a media company and you publish news. Instead of having reporters hunt for and write stories, get your customers to submit news to you. Get these customers to share news with each other, rank, and comment upon. CNN had tried to do something similar with its iReport web site (http://ireport.cnn.com/)
(2) Let's say you own a restaurant. Instead of cooking for your customers and having waiters, get your customers to come in and learn how to cook from each other. Someone who knows how to cook and is passionate about teaching others will be there. There will be one big kitchen with lots of people collaborating on recipes and things they can try to do. Your chef will be a part of the customer community, cooking along with them and giving them advice.
(3) Let's say your firm provides sales training services. Instead of having trainers, get your customers (salespeople) in the room and have them share what works and what doesn't in the context of their own organization. All you do is facilitate the meeting.
By using this model, you take the guesswork out of product development, reduce or eliminate product development costs, redefine the work of leadership (less on leading people, more on facilitating customers), reduce the overall cost of doing business, reduce risks of certain financial decisions, offer a greater variety of solutions to customers, create solutions that are more in context with customers' actual needs, create communities of passion, merge work and play, create outside markets for ideas, get ideas to come into the organization from customers, and put control in customers hands.
Matt Shlosberg (me)
Companies that served as inspiration