See the January 2009 edition of the journal Nature for a story on a "distributed, volunteer science" project which has been ongoing since 1900.

Co-Creation in Education

The Wisconsin State Journal recently published an article titled, "At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cooperation Equals Graduation." Using Professor Deborah Mitchell's Consumer Behavior course and attendant "Project MBA" as an example, the article discussed the widespread use of teams as an educational tool at the University.

As MBA students in the Wisconsin School of Business, we are extremely accustomed to teamwork, being assigned or forming our own teams in nearly every course in the program. What occurred to me in reading this article, however, was the role teams play in the creation of our educational experiences. While we all sit in the same classroom, participate in the same course discussions, and study the same course materials, we each arrive at the end of the semester with different educational experiences by virtue of the teamwork components of our classes. In other words, teams are truly a form of educational co-creation.

According to the article, "some instructors believe the group activities can push all students to achieve at a higher level than they would in traditional college courses emphasizing individual performance." Teamwork as a form of co-creation can lead to enriched educational outcomes, forcing students to learn from each others' real-world experiences and providing a platform for instant feedback - the type of collaboration that will be expected of us in our jobs after graduation.

As we have learned, co-creation can be a powerful tool in new product development. In a very real way, our education is a product that is deeply affected by the co-creation occurring from teamwork. While we do not often think of our teams as a form of innovation, surely my educational experience has been shaped by the people with whom I've worked during the course of my MBA program. Each team has taught me something different, and my education will be the result, at least in part, of the individual experiences I have had with my different team projects.

Extending the theory of teamwork as a form of co-creation in new product development (our education), two points emerge. First, if our "education" product is the result of teamwork co-creation, perhaps there should be an increased focus on selecting different teams for each project. The MBA program dictates our "core" course teams during our first year with a new team each semester. These same teams are required, however, for each course. Perhaps by switching up the composition of the teams more frequently, we could expand our learning and achieve more diverse educational experiences. The same is true in the second year of the program where we are free to select our own teams. Frequently, and I am no exception, we stick with the familiarity of the team mates with whom we are comfortable. Perhaps, however, we might achieve a more diverse experience by associating with different teams for each project.

Second, it seems clear that the more tools and resources we have to work with our teams, the easier it will be to utilize this form of co-creation. Differing schedules and work preferences often make teamwork difficult. The School of Nursing, however, will soon utilize an online platform allowing team members to post work on a course Web site and will provide a portal allowing all students to co-create a final report analyzing a medical problem. These new tools would be a great addition to the School of Business, enhancing the ways in which we use teams and collaborate as students to solve problems and learn new ideas.

There are many things that are part of growing older that I am not looking forward to including the possibility of wearing Depends. However, I am encouraged by KC's recent investment into the product. For the first time in Depend's 25-year history, KC will finally offer a separate product for men and women.

I am surprised that this innovation did not occur years ago, given that men and women are shaped differently and have different leakage needs (yikes!). But, with the aging baby boomer generation, the time to invest couldn't be better. You should feel comfortable recommending these incontinence products to those in need - with this upcoming change, the product will offer 28% better leakage protection.

I am left wondering why KC didn't think of this sooner. 25% improved performance is significant. And now, couples shopping together will have to buy two bags of Depends. This change should improve sales. Way to go KC!

If you haven't already, check out the New York Times 8th Annual Year in Ideas magazine. Though some of the entries describe social experiments or academic research findings, a few detail user-generated innovations, for example inflatable airbags to break falls sustained by the elderly, the leading cause of death for people over the age of 65 or spray-on condoms for the man who just can't find that right fit.

These ideas made me think about an issue not discussed in class - the economic viability of an innovation and how to market it. While most likely not an issue for most of us, individual resources and the market severely limit the number of innovations we see. So while we have a tendency to believe innovations are incremental and do not fulfill consumer needs, the innovations we actually see represent of fraction of what exists. For all we know, there is something out there that satisfies our unmet demand. We just don't know about it.

Innovation is a Habit

Many of us may have heard or read the book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, but you may not know ‘Seven Habits of Highly Innovative People’. No, it’s not created by me. I hope so though. At the very end of this semester and inspired by the ideas shared in the class and here, I had the question: “Is innovation a talent or a habit?” I don’t think myself as a very creative person. Yet I am interested in getting more innovative thoughts. Being innovative, or creative, is always a desirable trait in personal life or future job, isn’t it? So I found this article on habits of highly innovative people:

It’s quite encouraging for me as I went through the list:

1. Persistence – Obviously this is my strength. I can run 5 miles or have a long whole-day hiking!
2. Remove Self-Limiting Inhibitions - Think out of the box and be open to new ideas and solutions without setting limiting beliefs. I can do this better in the future.
3. Take Risks, Make Mistakes – Yes, I need to take more risks. ‘Rather than treating the mistakes as failures, think of them as experiments.’
4. Escape – ‘Ideas sometimes come to us in the shower or while we’re alone’. I agree with this especially because most of the day my head is full of things to do but I don’t really spend enough time thinking about doing something fun and differently.
5. Writing Things Down – That’s why I have this post finally!
6. Find Patterns & Create Combinations – I think this is what we did in the past several months from the class.’ Ideas come from other ideas.’ I did get some ideas from those interesting innovations presented by our classmates. Thanks a lot to you all.
7. Curiosity – This is a very important attribute of a marketer or marketing researcher, I believe.

‘Innovation is more about psychology than intellect.’ Hope you like this idea too.

Find a need and fill it

Marketing researchers are dedicated to clustering consumers and finding large groups of people with homogeneous demand. Find a need and fill it. If enough people are willing to buy the product, everyone is happy. However, this methodology misses the lead users who, according to von Hippel, are frequently the developers of real breakthrough products.

von Hippel's research has shown many of the most significant new products, such as the first heart-lung machine or skateboard, did not come form manufacturers trying to figure out what consumers want. They actually came from the users. It makes sense. Lead users know exactly what they want, but can't get it from existing products. This modifications can be extremely valuable to companies looking for new products. The goal of lead-user research is breakthrough innovation.

This shift to consumers on the fringe has implications for marketing research. von Hippel suggests a number of techniques to tap into lead users. According him, the best way to dig out ideas is to keep a close eye on what your lead users are doing like a journalist tracking down a news story. Traditional questionnaires focus on mainstream users. To truly understand lead users researchers can use semi-structures interviews to move from the abstract to more substantive questions. To generate insights you have to ask the right questions to the right people and establish an extensive network. 

I think this tool will become more common as companies look for breakthrough innovation to generate growth. It has implications to the traditional segment the total market and finding a need to fill. 

Communication Revolution

I recently had to trek over to the dreaded Sprint store because my Motorola Q decided to stop functioning. After I had selected my newest distraction, the Samsung Instinct aka Bush League I-phone, the surprisingly helpful sales associate did a cursory review of my account.

To my surprise, he informed me that I had only used 200 minutes of talk time during the previous month. This was shocking to me considering in my hay day I was averaging about 1,500 minutes per month. Then I realized… I don’t use my phone to talk to anyone anymore, I simply text them. If I can’t say it via text, I probably don’t say it.

I find it incredible that the innovation of text messaging has completely altered the way that I communicate with the outside world. The only person I still chat with on the phone is my Mom, and that’s because she’s a laggard and hasn’t discovered texting yet.

Last week I read an article on the web about the communication revolution and its effects on personal relationships. The author suggested that the increased use of e-mailing and texting instead of speaking in person or on the phone would have a severely detrimental effect on peoples’ relationships with others.
This does not bode well for my future.

Don't Read This...Really...I'm Warning You...

Recently, a classmate turned me on to an addicting website called If you choose to check it out, I'll apologize right now for wasting - most likely - countless hours of your time.
In class today, I was giving further thought to the idea of creation without monetary aspects, and I couldn't help but thinking of this site. To me, it's almost like a Wikipedia line extension. Like Wikipedia, all the content is created by users, and while the checks on accuracy might not be quite as strict, I've found it to be a very accurate site. Ultimately, I just thought it was yet another interesting example of people co-creating for their own personal reasons; maybe it's to be recognized as the creator, maybe it's to increase content on the page, maybe it's something else entirely. At the end of the day, whatever the reasons for creating, it's an addicting site.
Countries of the World anyone?

Although it's been around for a few years, the last six months has shown frenetic growth for an emerging social media platform known as Twitter. And it's a platform that has tremendous potential to help marketers better understand and interact with their customers -- leading to improvements in new product development and innovation.

Many may be skeptical of this claim. In fact, you may not have even heard of Twitter before, but if you question whether it is becoming mainstream, consider that the Wall Street Journal has published no less than 30 (as of this posting) different articles mentioning Twitter since September of this year -- including an October piece that headlined, "Twitter Goes Mainstream." A pretty bold statement.

What is Twitter?

Katherine Boehret wrote a "Mossberg Solution" column in the Wall Street Journal explaining the service: "In short, Twitter is a free social-networking tool that keeps people connected with one another and with sources of information. Twitter users submit updates about whatever they're currently doing, and these updates cannot exceed 140 text-based characters."

Some refer to it as 'micro blogging.' Basically, you write updates on what you're doing, thinking about, seeing, etc., in real time, and the sum total of these items is your Twitter stream (your micro blog). People then choose to Follow your stream, and vice versa, much as you would via the RSS stream on a blog. It's very stream of consciousness, which from a marketing research standpoint is very intriguing.

How can it can it help improve customer insights?

Twitter has tremendous potential for garnering customer insights, and in fact many businesses, including Comcast and Ford are already engaging in Twitter-moderated interactions with current and potential customers.

Some normative examples include:

  • Ethnographic observation of Lead Users,
  • Customer sentiment tracking and
  • Live, real-time interactive focus groups.

There also have been some great recent articles and blog postings on this topic -- pointing to using Twitter for engaging with customers.

> Observing behaviors and actions: Chris Wilson, who writes The Marketing Fresh Peel blog, posted a recent presentation in which he focused on how businesses can use Twitter for customer insights. "I stressed the importance of understanding people’s behaviors and actions," he notes on his blog, "because no matter what happens to Twitter years down the road, behaviors will be the same."

> Making dialogue two way; not getting caught up in the medium: On my own Propelling Brands blog I posted a response to a blog post by Tony Hung on the Conversation Agent Blog in which he commented on the role of Twitter in brand management. He points out that the key is to facilitate what is a two-way dialogue with customers, and he argues that brands using Twitter should "really listen to customers, show your commitment to participating in direct dialogue and identify and interact with true thought leaders." My additional thoughts, which I posted in my response, were that, "[t]he issue is that too often the medium becomes the message and as marketers we forget the role each channel plays in the ongoing dialogue between brands and customers. Also, all too often, we treat these mediums as a chance to shout at customers but never to really communicate with them."

The key to using Twitter for garnering customer insights is to keep in mind that it's just another tool in our arsenal. As marketers and marketing researchers we should have an objective in mind, first, and then assess whether Twitter is the right venue for communicating with our channel.

But this is the case for any social media technology. I presented on this topic last week, together with some other colleagues at the Wisconsin School of Business. We looked at the role of social media in new product development innovation, including providing points on how to assess whether any given platform is the right fit for the type of insight you wish to garner. You can check out the presentation on SlideShare here.

How can you begin using Twitter?

Set up an account, follow other's Twitter feeds and give it a try!

Microsoft Sure Can Innovate! ...Or Maybe Not?

In a recent article (full text found at Ron Harris, of, writes about Microsoft, referencing a very honest interview done recently by Microsoft's Chief Software Architect, Ray Ozzie (for those who are wondering, a guy named Bill Gates used to hold the same title).
In the article, Mr. Ozzie is actually quite critical of Microsoft, stating that their path to innovation in the past has been to demonize their competitors and define themselves in opposition to said competitors. By simply drawing a line in the sand, Harris argues that Microsoft fails to think about what they're doing. His argument: Microsoft is not, in fact, a particularly great innovator. Instead, they've bought products over the years and tweaked them. I'd agree that this is less innovation than understanding where to put your money. And is that such a bad thing?
What Microsoft does well is what they need to leverage moving forward. Mr. Harris seems to agree, stating that what Microsoft needs isn't revolution, but profitable evolution.
Ultimately, it's an interesting take on a company that many people - especially those with only a skin deep understanding of the industry - will cite as a truly innovative firm. I tend to agree with the assessment, and it sounds like some of Microsoft's recent misses have finally gotten them to take notice as well.

A Real Tree?

I'm a late adopter for most technology and therefore, I do not have an iPhone or Blackberry. I am thinking about getting the G1 phone but I'm worried if I have access to the internet 24/7 I might get really addicted to it and every time I get an email I will be looking at my phone. I can also imagine my blood pressure will rise. Anyway, I hear there are these things called "apps" for iPhone. Here is a new one called Real Tree. See the original article for more info:

Basically you purchase a "tree" for 99 cents and then you get a tree on your iPhone. The money goes towards education people about reforestation efforts across the globe. The tree on your phone can grow flowers or even have the wind go threw it.

I personally do not find any use for this but maybe others will like this relatively lazy and cheap way of being involved with the environment? We will have to see how it does.

In the December 3, 2008 issue of, there is an article about packaging innovation from McDonald's. The article explains that McDonald's is attempting to create personalities for each of their products, and provide consumers with visual cues that remind them that McDonald's products are made from "real food." The full article can be seen here:

While I applaud McDonald's for striving to find solutions to make their packaging more environmentally-friendly, it seems as though this re-design is just change for the sake of change. In addition to rolling-out the new packaging to update the McDonald's brand and product line, "McDonald's is also trying to stay ahead of concerns over obesity" (, 12/03/08). The McDonald's team believes this concept will satiate a global appetite for greater information about food products, though I'm not convinced this is a need-based driven innovation. Certainly, as US consumers are faced with a difficult economic environment, McDonald's might have been better off spending time on innovation in the area of promotions instead of refreshing the look and packaging of their products. Or, perhaps McDonald's could allocate some of its resources to addressing the nutritional composition of its products.

Tesla Motors

At a time when the executives from the Big Three are flying to Washington, DC to grovel for tens of billions of dollars to keep their floundering businesses afloat, a small auto manufacturer in Northern California is doing things a bit differently. Tesla Motors, the nation's leading all-electric car company, manufactures zero-emission luxury sedans in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The Model S is Tesla's zero-emission, 5-passenger luxury sedan powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. The Model S is expected to have a base price of $60,000 and achieve about 240 miles per charge with performance superior to other electric vehicles. The first sedans are scheduled to roll off the assembly line in San Jose, CA in late 2010. The $250 million facility where the Model S will be manfactured is expected to achieve gold certification from the U.S. Green Buidling Council Leadership in Energy and Environemtnal Design (LEED).

Tesla's first production vehicle is the Roadster, a zero-emission, all-electric, two-seater sports car. The vehicle is unique in that it provides exceptional peformance, zero emissions, and extraordinary efficiency. The Roadster has a 0-to-60 mph acceleration of 3.9 seconds and a 14,000 rpm redline. The vehicle is currently on sale in the United States and Europe. The company has delivered about 30 Roadsters to customers thus far and announced last week that it is ramping up production due to scorching demand. Approximately 1,200 people have put down deposits to reserve a Roadster, and the order book continues to grow despite softness in the auto sector.

Tesla has recruited a number of high-profile hires with deep auto industry expertise. Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja was formerly Controller at Ford, and Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen, the designer for the Model S, was the former Director of Design for Mazda North America. These new hires with auto industry pedigrees will give Tesla deep insight into the auto sector.

The first time you drive the Roadster, prepare to be astounded. There is no clutch pedal to meddle with. With just the touch of your foot, you'll be at highway speed within seconds. With a gasonline engine you are forced to make frequent gear changes to maintain opitmal levels of torque, but with the Roadster you get phenomenal acceleration and the utmost energy efficiency simultaneously. This makes the Roadster six times as efficient as the best sports car while producing a fraction of the pollution.

So you're probably wondering.... How does it work? Although conventional cars have over 100 moving parts, the Roadster has just one: the rotor. The Roadster's elegantly designed powertrain consists of just four main components: battery, motor, transmission, and power electronics module.
When Tesla set out to build a high-performance all-electric car, the most daunting challenge was obvious from the start: the battery. The Roadsters battery pack represents the largest innovation in the vehicle. Tesla has combined proven lithium ion battery technology with their own unique battery pack design. The battery is light, durable, and recycleable and capable of accelerating the Roadster from 0-to-60 in under four seconds.
You may find it surprising that the Roadster's acceleration power comes from a motor the size of a watermelon. While most car engines must be moved with a forklift, the Roadster motor weighs about 115 lbs. But more important than the motors size is its efficiency. The motor has effiencies of 85-95%. This way the precious stored energy in the battery goes to propelling you down the road instead of heating up the trunk.
The single speed transmission pairs the low drag and fuel efficiency of a manual transmission with the driving ease of an automatic. There is no clutch pedal. Just move the shift lever and the Power Electronics Module takes care of everything.
The Power Electronics Module, located in the trunk of the Roadster, is the hub of the electronic network that guides the vehicle. Each time you shift gears or accelerate the Roadster, the PEM translates your commands in precisely timed voltages. The PEM also controls motor torqe, charging, and braking.

According to Tesla Product Achitect and Chairman Elon Musk, "Tesla has amazing momentum right now. The excitement within the company is palpable. The company has clearly taken production of all-electric vehicles to the next level, and the Model S assembly plant will dramatically accelerate our growth."

Let's turn back the clock to Summer, 2004, Kansas City MO/KS. Voters were determining whether or not to levy an arena tax on the rental car and hotel industries to finance the proposed Sprint Center, an arena designed to revitalize the downtown area and potentially entice a professional basketball or hockey team to relocate to Kansas City. Standing in opposition to this arena tax was the newly-formed Coalition Against Arena Taxes. Points for creativity on the name.
The Coalition Against Arena Taxes consisted of around 30 members from different local businesses including one rental car agency that we will refer to as Every-prize Rent a Car (as well as a few other rental agencies). Every-prize's argument against the arena tax centered on their concern regarding the disproportionate increase in expenses - in some cases up to a 40% - on their local renter. Their goal was to have the arena tax limited to airport location and to be decreased from a $4/day tax to a $2/day tax of which Every-prize shared common ground with their competitors. Other CAAT members voiced their concern over the potential for a trickle down tax on their businesses should the financing partners either pull out of the non-binding agreement or should total funding be insufficient.
While an alliance was created between Every-prize and a few of its rental car competitors aligning their mutual concern over such a significant tax imposition, when the debate grew more heated in the last few weeks, it was Every-prise alone that received the negative backlash from the powers that be in Kansas City. The news media spun the Coalition's objections as an attempt from Every-prize, a St Louis based company, to stifle the attempts of Kansas City to gain a professional sporting team in the hopes that such a team would prefer St Louis. While an absurd claim, it succeeded by reinforcing the Napoleonic complex and biases of the Kansas City citizens against St Louis. Apparently winning the 1985 World Series over the Cardinals was insufficient.
While Every-prize was tacking a lashing in the news and through boycotts and picketing, their "allies" determined that the best way to handle the situation was to avoid the spotlight and let Every-prize take the heat. We have discussed the benefit of alliances in a few courses now, including NPD, and I thought it important to mention that whether vertical or horizontal alliances are created between two competing companies over a mutual desire to launch a new product or to protect themselves from an industry-wide occurrence, beware of those with whom you ally.

Recently, I learned about Playing For Change:Peace Through Music. PBS presented a documentary about this new innovation led by Mark Johnson on the Bill Moyers Journal. The innovative product is music that has been co-created by musicians across the globe. The driving force of the film is to find a way to inspire the planet to come together as a human race through the universal language of music. Johnson and his team want to focus on our connections rather than all of our differences. They believe music can break down the walls and barriers between cultures, and raise the level of human understanding and connection.

The project took three years to complete. As the team traveled around the world, the idea was to get as many different cultures and races to sing songs together to inspire the world to come together through music. Roger Ridley, a street musician in Santa Monica, CA, caught the attention of Mark Johnson. Ridley's voice intrigued Johnson to the point that he asked him for permission to come back with recording equipment to video tape and record him as he sang "Stand By Me." Ridley agreed.

The co-creation happened as each musician added to the song "Stand By Me" without meeting any of the other musicians. First, Johnson recorded Roger. Next, he went to a Native American Zuni reservation, put headphones on the natives, let them listen to Roger sing and play the guitar, and then they sang and played the drums over Roger's recording. Afterwards, he went to South Africa and put headphones on a Zulu choir situated on a mountain top, they listened to the new version of "Stand By Me," and they played on top of it. This continued across the globe. Johnson's final product ended up featuring approximately thirty-seven musicians who never met, all playing "Stand By Me" together, live, outside, and around the world. He and his team use the music to inspire the planet, and have created a foundation to build music schools in some of the communties of the participating musicians. Visit for more information and to watch the video. Once on the website, click "enter," then "click to play

In one of the most anticipated match up of the NBA season, November 25, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavilers traveled to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Knicks for the first time in the 2008-2009 NBA season. In what is becoming an annual tradition, Nike will use this platform to create excitement and energy around the game of basketball through the newest edition of the Nike Zoom LeBron VI shoe.
The introduction of this specialty sneaker is always a major attraction as the New York City stage could not be brighter. In LeBron’s last visit to Madison Square Garden, Nike introduced the Zoom LeBron V, NY Yankees edition. In this shoe, LeBron scorched the Knicks for 50 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists, while grabbing the attention of the sports world. The LeBron V shoes combined the patented LeBron James flare with attributes of New York City, more specially the New York Yankees’ pin stripes and emblem. This NYC edition created an amazing amount of buzz and was regarded as a huge hit. In this latest version, Nike took advantage of the nickname “Big Apple” as inspiration. This shoe is consistent with the features of LeBron, but the colorway is all “Big Apple” as the entire shoe is candy apple red. This all red shoe consists of one of a kind speckled midsole that is synonymous with NYC streetball legendary background. In addition to this specialty shoe being unveiled in the city credited with being the home of modern basketball, the LeBron VI will only be sold in limited edition at selected Nike retailers such as the House of Hoops in Harlem, NY and Niketown in Manhattan, NY. Nike’s innovation of intertwining a city with a specialty sneaker is something that is not often seen as few combinations are as famous as Nike and basketball. Throw LeBron James in the mix and you have the something special aspect that makes this creation different from all others.

In an age when video games are differentiated by specifics such as HD graphic resolution, Sony sought to take a step backwards and develop a product with broad enough appeal to attract as many consumers as possible. This challenge, however, did not rely on piecing together the ultimate gamer market segmentation report. Rather, Sony needed to create an approach that did this groundwork for them, fast. The Wii gamer segment, where users are personalizing their machines and game profiles to interact with an online community, is growing steadily and, most recently, out-sold Sony's PS3 over 4 to 1 ( Further, video game production costs, 3 years ago, ranged between $3 million and $6 million ( Estimates today place costs upwards of $20 million. New video games, thus, need relatively strong ROI.

So, then, how might Sony safely reach as many customers as possible? Meet LittleBigPlanet. LBP is a world where gamers guide 'Sack puppets' through any challenges made available to them. These 'Sack people' range from being entirely new to resembling characters from various other popular games. And, of course, they can be customized.

But Sony did not stop at this simple functionality, which is found in a majority of today's games. LBP is a semi-open game platform in the form of a developer's kit. Players can build their own worlds quickly, customized however they please. These worlds can then be shared online amongst the PS3 LBP community. Appropriately, LittleBigWorkshop's catch phrase is Play. Create. Share.

While there were 50 pre-built levels included with the game, Sony looks to the community of LBP gamers to create worlds of play applicable to their demographic or something to which their segment is emotionally tied. For example, there is an up-cropping of worlds resembling the early Mario Brothers games. This externalization of NPD (albeit partial because gamers do not truly create an entirely new product) is apparently a fun process for the user and results in a products personalized to a broad spectrum of segments. This is not the first game to provide this capability; level building dates back to at least 1991 in a game by Epic called ZZT ( However, this does represent a shift towards NPD via social media, where gamers add value to their own community through co-creation. The result thus far, though muddled by the current recession, is reasonably good. After its launch completed early this November, LBP's sales placed it in the top 10 titles for October with only a few day's worth of availabilty accounting for that ranking (

Another interesting and, perhaps, more poignant insight is that this same approach and capability, including all the community communication elements, were available for PC games decades ago. Sony's LBP model is hardly a new concept for innovation. Yet, perhaps users were not yet conditioned to develop and share as readily as they are today.

Let’s ask ChaCha

I was talking with some of my friends over the holiday and we got into a big debate over who would win in a fight, a badger or a wolverine, so I said, “Let’s ask ChaCha.” All I got in return was blank stares, but I couldn’t blame them as I reacted the same way when I first heard of ChaCha a couple months ago.

The basic model is that you either text or call ChaCha with a question. In a matter of moments, ChaCha sends you a reply that one of their specialists is working on your question or asks you to rephrase your question. Then about a minute later, you receive a text message with the answer

At first, this concept seemed archaic and strange to me. Why would I send a text message to a human for them to look up an answer for me? Why couldn’t I just look it up myself? Then I remembered the all the time I’ve wasted going through page after page of search results trying to answer simple questions. This is brilliant, have someone else do it, an actual human who can provide an answer that makes sense. This is a great example of meeting an unknown need.

Since ChaCha’s launch in January, they have answered to over 50 million questions to 1.7 million users, 85% of them under the age of 25. Recently, ChaCha has launched their mobile advertising solutions that incorporate ads with the answers and gives marketers another option for targeting the under 25 demographic. Unfortunately, I cannot attest to the accuracy of the data as ChaCha believes, “the wolverine would probably win the fight over the badger” courtesy of “Horton Hears a Who is available on blu-ray @ Wal-Mart on 12/9.”

Another Example of Co-Creation

I thought I would give you all a sneak peek at my latest innovation. Ellery Lynne Lincoln is now 33 weeks and still in the research and development phase. We have an expected launch date of 1/22/09. In this particular case we are not only the innovators but also the consumer, so to speak. Although, with those cheeks, it might be debated who is doing the consuming!

“Innovation is something truly different in the market that makes your customers’ lives better.”—Herb Baum, CEO Dial

We anticipate that this innovation will follow some of the basic innovation guidelines:

  • Something new and valuable
  • Alter the way we live
  • Deliver benefits/solve problems

This innovation is important because our "firm" has a focus on innovation as a means for growth.

On the Product-Market Matrix she would be a market development: existing product (baby) for a new market (Daniel and me).

Daniel Lincoln and I have formed a NPD Alliance to produce Elle. “A formalized collaborative arrangement among two or more organizations to jointly acquire and utilize information and know-how related to the R&D of new product innovations.” (Aric Rindfleisch lecture slides)

Although we are aware that most new products fail, we are hoping to mitigate this statistic by addressing the following criteria:
•Most failures seem to be due to poor sensing rather than bad solutions.

We feel we have the pulse of the consumer and are sensing the right time for launch

•Other key problems include risk aversion and slow development times.

Through thorough research we have determined that the levels of risk aversion are at an all-time low and we are positioned to offer a product that falls well within the risk criteria of the target segment. Although the development time appears to be on pace with industry average (40 weeks), the risks associated with expedited development do not appear to offset any rewards.

However, we are also aware that failures may not always be bad. We are focussed on learning from our mistakes and using them to continue to innovate with Elle.


Est. 2008 | Aric Rindfleisch | Wisconsin School of Business | Banner Image by Bruce Fritz