Open source practices may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. Why would you offer universal access to your product’s design or blueprint for others to build and improve upon?
In Silicon Valley, these open source practices are well established in software development with heavy hitters like Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Amazon having released millions of lines of code to the public and hosted hundreds of projects for the purpose of making greater advancements at faster speeds. It was actually through this development model that Android’s open operating system has gone on to become the world’s largest computing system.
Before you entirely dismiss this development model as one that is only viable for software development, I encourage you to consider the method to the “madness” (Tesla did as they took an unprecedented step of opening up all of their patents in an effort to grow the EV category at large). There are lessons that we, as marketers, can take from the open source movement, and apply to our innovation and product development processes.
Lesson 1: Make your consumers work for you
In the open source model, the users of the system are seen as co-developers, who all have access to the code and can build upon it and fix all the bugs in the software at a faster rate. What if you were to leverage consumers as co-creators of a product/concept brought in to offer feedback early in the development process?
Traditionally consumers are brought in closer to launch to screen ideas, concepts or prototypes that have already been almost completely fleshed out. At this stage, the consumer feedback solicited is often reactionary and limited to only the aspects of the product/service that can be optimized or tweaked versus an overhaul.
Consider the value of inviting consumers to feedback earlier in the process, where there is still flexibility to actually change and adapt the product based on insights from research. Instead of having a functional conversation with consumers about which features, characteristics, functionalities they like/dislike, brands can leverage initial ideas as stimulus to engage in deeper, more meaningful conversations to unearth consumers’ unrealized and unspoken needs, behaviors and motivations. These data points will better inform and guide development as they are grounded in actual needs and behaviors. More so, by bringing consumers into the development process, where they are encouraged to co-create, it starts establishing an emotional connection as they start to feel vested in the actual product and brand itself.
Lesson 2: Greater exposure for better optimization (and reduced risk)
With the open source model since the code is accessible by all users, it is continuously analyzed by a large community, which results in more secure and stable code. What if traditional NPD opened their process to include a bigger consumer community to constantly analyze, iterate and optimize an idea?
Currently consumer research does not live continuously along the traditional stage gate process, so there are a lot of assumptions (albeit informed) being made from idea creation to concept validation through to actual launch. By increasing the touchpoints for consumer feedback throughout the journey will help you optimize your idea, and also reduce the risk of launching a product that will not resonate or is not relevant to consumers.
Establishing this iterative and constant learning partnership with consumers can result in a great deal of value add for you as an organization. As it:
- Leads to learnings that can help steer product development and design without slowing down the process
- Provides data to help encourage internal buy in and alignment
- Sparks ideas to launch entirely new initiatives to address the consumer and market needs that come out of this iterative research approach.
Lesson 3: Leverage barriers to identify future opportunities
Companies will often pivot to an open source model to crowd source solutions that they need addressed quickly or haven’t been able to solve internally or when they are limited in resources be it funding or audience instead of having to close down and letting everything they have built go to waste. What if you applied this approach to NPD for the ideas and prototypes that never made it or were deemed unfeasible to identify the parts that can be leveraged and built upon?
Even if an idea or prototype doesn’t perform as well as you may have hoped, by inviting consumer feedback along the product development journey allows a brand the ability to reposition the product. This helps you still leverage the technology and investment that have gone into the initial development by figuring out how to redirect resources and development based on consumer insights and market trends to lead to actual commercial opportunities.
At first glance, the open source movement may appear to be only applicable to the software development, however, there are practices that all marketers, no matter your vertical, can apply to the NPD process. By truly treating the consumer as a co-creator and inviting feedback from them along the journey from conception to launch will allow you to learn faster and make smarter decisions based in insight and data to get to end products that truly solve for unmet, unrealized and constantly evolving consumer and market needs.
To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts early in the development journey with consumers globally and in real time, please click below: