Consumer is Boss?

I have been thinking about A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan’s new book The Game-Changer: How You Can drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation (Crown Business, 2008). I agree that establishing a disciplined, repeatable, and scalable innovation process; creating organizational and funding mechanisms that support innovation; and demonstrating the kind of leadership necessary for profitable top-line growth as well as cost reduction is right on.

My problem is with the intriguing and strong statement that the “Consumer is the Boss”. Such statements need to be provocative – Martin Luther King captured attention by saying “I have a dream”, rather than saying “I have a few ideas!!”… but I think this statement is misleading as far as breakthrough innovation goes.

If the “Consumer is the Boss” is really a company’s mantra, breakthrough innovation wouldn’t happen. Customers are thinking about “now” …..the problems they are experiencing on a day to day basis. Indeed that is important for companies to think about, but I believe the “Change the World” opportunity of breakthrough innovation stems from idealizing customers and envisioning problems and better solutions. Yes you place the customer center stage but you stretch your imagination about making them stars.

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