Forrester Consumer Forum 2008: Consumer Driven Eco-systems – Second of Three

You can read my first post on the Forrester Consumer Forum, which provides set-up here.

Alamo Relief in the Gaylord Texan
Alamo Relief in the Gaylord Texan

These forums are usually a great mix of analyst insights, customers talking about how they face and solve real business problems and “outsiders” as I affectionately call them. That is academics, consultants or futurists. The customer speakers were a bit of a mixed bag, but both outsiders were well worth the trip. And since Forrester already gets so much ink, I have decided to devote the last two posts on this Forum roundup (we’re in Texas remember) to these externals.

First Patricia Seybold, Founder and CEO of the Patricia Seybold Group. Her topic was Outside Innovation: Profiting from Consumer-Driven Ecosystems. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to her at dinner the evening after her talk, which provided me with greater texture into her thought process. I will try and insert some of that bonus material into my post. Ms. Seybold defines a Customer-Centric Ecosystem as:

A business network that’s aligned to help customers get things done.

It can be formal, informal, organic, dynamic or loosely coupled. This is a pretty blank canvas for sure, but then she expands it further by saying it should be aligned around customers’ outcomes and ideal experiences, and provide real time, real world, objective feedback. Where to begin?

Fortunately she had some examples (not case studies, sorry Forrester, these are externals) of companies that have done this successfully. She cited a Staples example where they cut time consumers have to wait to get their rebate check. Staples had to convince the manufacturers that this would be good for them as well as the customer. The result, happier customers and more sales.

Another example was Lego’s Mindstorms program. They give kids a chance to compete in a series of problem solving exercises under pressure. They work on the problem, build it and test it. They are purposefully not given enough resources, but are encouraged to work in the real world trial and error (sound familiar?) environment. Involving kids is always a stroke of genius. Have you ever given a child a digital camera? You get the most interesting shots or footage. It’s a winner all around. The kids get to rise to the challenge, the adults get to help them and the sponsors build brand loyalty and get to foster new talent for the future. The only nervous group were the actual Lego engineers.

But the real clincher was Ms. Seybold’s involvement with a small village in Kagadi Uganda. She has visited there several times and helped them create the village they wanted. Her framework for advancement is:

  • Vision
  • Current Reality
  • Gap
  • Structural Tension
  • Belief
  • Decide
  • Commit/Act

She employed this process in this village. The residents had to decide what they wanted and then work to get it. They worked on agriculture, outreach programs across the area, set-up a community radio station and educated their girls to be change agents. They also employed a two-generation education program where parents would come in and learn alongside their children.

Ms. Seybold’s approach is to address goals and identify the key moments of truth, which means when partner success aligns with customer success. All of this with the objective of getting things done.

Key sound bites for me were “embed your echo-system experience into your products.” This is a very different way of thinking. Then evolve it via customer pull vs. marketing push. That’s the tough one for most firms to understand.

Patricia Seybold Group
© 2008 Patricia Seybold Group

At dinner I learned of her interest and training in comparative literature, which made perfect sense to me, as she is a storyteller and weaves the great human themes into her keen sense of business. If you think this approach can be applied in your company, look her up.

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