The Rising Role of Prosumers


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A new survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that by 2013 customers will be the most important source of innovation within organizations. The term “prosumer” defines a situation where the line between producer and consumer blur.
In the past, customers have often been involved in product development. However, this has typically taken place near the end of the product development process. Now Web 2.0 or social media is making ongoing interactions between customers and companies feasible.
This prediction for the growth of “prosuming” will not be a surprise to many. Companies like Proctor and Gamble, Noika and Lego are doing it today with tremendous success. Research and development costs are decreasing, customers actually want the new products and features, and prosumers become passionate advocates—before the product is launched.
Let’s give some credit where it is due. The idea of a prosumer is not new. In his 1984 book, The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler coined the term and described the dynamics that would lead to its rise. Toffler envisioned a highly saturated marketplace of standardized products that people would treat like commodities. He even talked about mass customization but envisioned that the ultimate degree of customization would occur when customers played a greater role in design.
Businesses need to take heed and learn how to nurture a new type of relationship with customers. This will mean giving a lot of control. Customers are already interacting with each other via open online communities, without companies.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


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