No doubt you're familiar with Google Glass. People have been talking about wearable technology for years, but there is still no product available for the mass market. Odd?
Not in today's world, where innovation starts with designing a product minimally and tossing it out into the market to see what customers have to say. Smart companies then modify the original idea until the product suits the customers' needs.
"Google Glass is a great example of a customer development model," said Pelin Bicen, an assistant professor of marketing in the Black School of Business at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. "Different from a product development model, this model focuses not just on developing a product that a customer may want but also developing a market for it during the development process."
It's a way of thinking that start-ups easily embrace and support.
"Companies that use this lean methodology, such as Evernote, Spotify, CoinBase and Lyft, have had incredible success with it," Bicen said.
She challenges students in her Innovation and New Product Development course to think the same way. She asked 10 teams of students to identify a need, come up with a product or service to fill it and test their hypotheses on a new set of potential customers each week.
"It was a very labor-intensive project that required constant analysis and evaluation," Bicen said. "Sometimes what the students thought would work did not work when they tested it with potential customers. Then, they would need to conduct intensive research to find out why it was rejected and what they could do to fix it."
Students had to learn by doing, just like a lean start-up company would.
Bicen invited several high-tech companies across the country to talk with the students via Skype and offer advice and insight into product development and innovation. The guests emphasized the importance of collaboration in the development of new products and services.
"Innovation does not happen without collaboration," she said. "You may have a great idea, but in order to execute it, you need passionate people on your team, companies to work with you and customers who want to see your product make it to the market."
Advances in technology have reduced transaction costs, making sharing and creating through collaboration cheaper and easier than ever, Bicen said.
"This emerging model -- innovating through collaboration -- has potential to turn traditional business models upside down," she said.