Can a Customer Ecosystem Approach Bring Families Together?


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When I read Patty Seybold’s fascinating take on how Local Motors is transforming the automobile industry, I was taken with her mention that father-and-son teams have become a target audience for designing and building new, cool cars. I started imagining the dad-son teams working together in their garage, figuring out how the dashboard should look, whether the car needed a spoiler, and other car-like things that I, honestly, don’t know anything about. I pictured the excitement when they got feedback and support from a community of other car enthusiasts. I even saw the arguments and disappointments when something didn’t work well (and then envisioned the almost sitcom show moment when the son runs down the stairs yelling, “Dad, Dad, I figured it out!” and they hugged and rushed out to the garage to work together in family harmony).

And I envied that (okay, fictitious) moment—although they probably do occur in some less made-for-TV moments. But the model to have open source design for different kinds of “built” products—the design of goods that can be manufactured and, eventually, sold, is intriguing. So I started extrapolating on how this model can continue to bring families together—and get the females involved. I thought smaller—appliance design, fashion design, new concepts in telescopes, exercise equipment, board games. Not that any of these are as complex (or perhaps as sexy) as designing and building a great new vehicle. But they are things that a family (or friends, or community group) can work on together from conception, to design, to fabrication, to manufacturing.

What differentiates these from other DIY kit projects is the addition of the ecosystem—the providers of tools to do the design, materials to do the fabrication, and the community of like minded enthusiasts to advise, help with problems, give suggestions, and cheerlead the project to completion. And, who knows, maybe help the family market a new breakthrough product that the whole world can enjoy. In my vision, the ecosystem becomes the extended family. Wouldn’t that be terrific!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ronni Marshak
Patricia Seybold Group
Ronni Marshak co-developed Patricia Seybold Group's Customer Scenario® Mapping (CSM) methodology with Patricia Seybold and PSGroup's customers. She runs the CSM methodology practice, including training, certification, and licensing. She identifies, codifies, and updates the recurring patterns in customers' ideal scenarios, customers' moments of truth, and customer metrics that she discovers across hundreds of customer co-design sessions.


  1. Ronni: thanks for posting this. I’ve been working on a Science Olympiad ( project with my son’s school. Through this program, there are numerous building projects, including the one we’re working on, Towers, which involves constructing a tower of wood and glue that must support up to 35 pounds. There’s as much teamwork and trial/error as there is math and engineering.

    Other projects include catapult construction, a vehicle powered by a spring mousetrap, a heat-retention device (that isn’t a Thermos!), and more. Your point about the ‘ecosystem’ is very much a part of the effort. The Science Olympiad is guided first and foremost by enthusiastic students, but also by a community of parents, teachers, and other volunteers.

  2. Hi Andrew. I’d love to learn more about the project. I’ll go to the website, but would it also be okay if I contact you directly? Patty Seybold and I are doing a lot of thinking about customer ecosystems, and, as we both agree, that goes beyond typical business applications. Having the right ecosystem in place can help in social projects, help communities, education, and even politics. Hope to be in touch soon.


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