Innovation and co-creation at Nokia Beta Labs

Larry Irons · July 14, 2008 · Short URL:

The role of customer communities

At least since publication of the Cluetrain Manifesto, with its basic point that markets are conversations, the importance of customers, online and off -- but especially those online, to innovation gained widespread recognition. Pointing out the importance of customer communities to sustaining innovation is not exactly a new insight. In recent years the term co-creation emerged to describe the process, whether applied to established companies or start-ups. However, understanding what leads customers to engage in co-creation is important. A story at Nokia Conversations points to a recent study sponsored by Nokia Beta Labs that offers a profile of the customers active in their community, framing the relationship as follows:

While on one side it seems cheap to release unfinished goods and ask for help. But at the same time, it's amazing to involve eager customers who not only make the product even better than if we did it alone, but are all lined up to take the product they helped make...

Understanding which individuals are more likely to engage in co-creation can benefit efforts to engage your company's customers in product innovation. No doubt, participants in the Nokia customer community differ from those who might belong to a community of customers outside the mobile device market. However, the Nokia community research study provides information about the characteristics of 691 customers who participate in the Nokia community and what motivates those customers to engage in co-creation. Nokia Beta Labs allows users of Nokia mobile devices to download applications and provide private feedback or public feedback via blog posts.

The Nokia report observes that a much larger number of respondents to the survey (53%) simply downloaded a Beta Labs application, compared to the 35% who downloaded an application and gave feedback. Even fewer, 19% of total respondents, provided public feedback. Almost 80% of respondents reported that they try Nokia Beta Labs applications from interest in the technology and following what is happening in mobile devices. Around 65% of those providing feedback indicated they do so to help others and make a difference. Of those who provided public feedback, around 75% indicated they do so to enable discussion. In addition, over 40% of those providing public feedback also indicated they do so because it makes them feel more connected to other community members.

The age range of respondents to the Nokia study was between 14 and 65 years, with an average age of 30.4 years. Around 96% of respondents were male and almost 70% either work in a technology related occupation or possess a technical education.


Larry writes the blog Skilful Minds.

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