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MIT Sloan and BPMA Discuss an Untapped Business Resource: Customer Innovation

This Thursday, business students and professionals in the Boston area attended a monthly talk at the MIT Sloan School of Management that unveiled the surprising results of global, decades-long surveys on product development. The results: customers create innovative products at a much faster rate than businesses. In many cases, the role of business leaders is to find innovative ways of reaching their own customer product-developers.

The event, run jointly by the Boston Product Management Association and the MIT Sloan Alumni Club of Boston, was keynoted by MIT Sloan’s Eric von Hippel, the T. Wilson Professor of Management of Innovation and Engineering Systems. Dr. von Hippel’s research focuses on the early stages of innovation, where initial product ideas come together. His book, Democratizing Innovation (2005), underscored that customers are more than mere consumers of corporate product development.

The notion that customers are essential sources of product development carries intriguing possibilities for product development; however, the question of how businesses can access creative customer innovation remains. Sloan’s MBA program is on the forefront of exploring how businesses can most effectively harness the innovative potential of their own customers.

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