The Pressetext news agency reported that nowadays many companies count on their customers as so-called co-innovators in order to refine the findings of large-scale market research and marketing processes. “In their search for innovation an increasing number of companies do not simply rely on their own research and development units, but also take advantage of their clients creative potential at the same time”, says Mr Constantin Gillies from the Financial Times Germany. Ten percent of all new products brought onto the market by the brand name company Procter und Gamble result from external ideas, from so-called open innovation.
Although it is true that not every client is a born inventor, there are forecasts by the British Economist Intelligence Unit which confirm that major changes in the business world of tomorrow will originate from the company/client interface.”Although open innovation is not a substitute for traditional innovation processes”, claims Mr Frank Piller from the Technical University of Munich, “it nevertheless optimizes the development of new products.” This helps companies to come up with true basic innovations and avoid time and money consuming trial and error paths.
Over the past decades many innovations by customers got lost because producers and clients were separated from each other due to a growing number of business processes in between such as wholesalers and other kinds of intermediaries. A solution to this problem is provided by the Internet which offers new direct ways of contact, which, however, are still considered by many companies as kind of a nuisance rather than an opportunity. In particular German companies could benefit from direct contact to their German customers over the Internet given that in contrast to their foreign competitors they could address their customers in their native language. This does, of course, also apply to German small and medium-sized companies to which the Internet could provide a competitive edge.