Lego’s Principles for Customer Collaboration

CUSTOMER-ORIENTED COMPANIES pride themselves on their ability to understand the experiences and insights of the marketplace and then integrate the best ideas into future products.1 But what would it be like if you found that you had hundreds if not thousands of knowledgeable users of your products ready and eager to spend nights and weekends acting as extensions of your research and development department? For the Lego Group, a maker of children’s creative construction toys based in Billund, Denmark, this close bond with the user community — not just children but a large coterie of adults who have been using its products for years — is not a pipe dream but a reality.

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The Lego experience offers these principles for successful interaction with customers: 

  1. Be clear about rules and expectations.
  2. Ensure a win-win.
  3. Recognize that outsiders aren’t insiders.
  4. Don’t expect one size to fit all.
  5. Be as open as possible.

However, I like this summary point, which more than anything highlights the shift in thinking required:

Instead of regarding collaboration as something that needs to be managed exclusively by the company, it is fruitful to think of it as an ongoing dialogue between two allies. Both sides contribute important resources to a common purpose.