Who do you want your customers to become? — Michael Schrage

Nov 24, 2017 · 3 min read
Innovation is an investment in human capital

{The above video links to YouTube and provides the book review as well}

You are now the customer who is comfortable talking to a non-human like an iPhone’s Siri or an Amazon Echo speaker.
“Ridiculous! You are insane!”… this is what people would have told you if you were to do that a few years ago.

But then came all these companies, that dreamed about and asked you to become the kind of people who actually talk to devices!

Exercise for you: List down all the innovations that you have adopted in the past few years and think, what they have asked you to become.

How have they changed who you are? Do you like or resent, what they have asked you to become?
Did it make you more productive, attentive or what good did it do to you? Conversely, what things did it do to you, that you didn’t like?

My Notes:

“Innovation is an investment in human capital. In the capabilities and competencies of your customers. Your future depends on their future!”

Innovation is about designing customers, not just new products, new services, and new user experiences! — Another brilliant observation by the author!

‘What you want your customers to become?’ & ‘What your innovations ask them to do?’ must align with each other. Meaning, customer vision and user experience must be in sync with each other.

Successful innovators don’t just ask customers and clients to do something different; they ask them to become something different.

They transform users and ask users to embrace, or at least tolerate new values, new skills, new behaviors, new vocabularies, new ideas, new expectations and new aspirations.
Their innovations make customers better and make better customers.

Examples of ‘The Ask’ of successful innovators

  • Google’s innovation asked its users to become ‘instant searchers’. Its genius was making impatience a customer virtue. They aspired to create impatient users who expected easy interfaces, typed in misspelled words, and yet needed fast results at zero costs!
  • Facebook’s innovation asked its users to become more open to share even if they are introverts

Great points!

Organizations must think of itself not as producing goods or services but as buying customers, as doing the things that will make people want to do business with it.

The entire corporation must be viewed as a customer creating and customer satisfying organism — Levitt

The ask, takes the above point further and reframes it as this
What business a company is in depends, in large part, not on existing customers but who tomorrow’s customers will and should be.

The ask is however, NOT a question of technology. It is a useful and usable framework for rethinking how innovation transforms customers.

Successful innovation rebrands the customer, not just the product

Truly successful innovations generate wealth for their users, not just their creators. Innovation capital creates human capital creates financial capital. Innovation then should be thought of as an source of capital creation!

Great questions to ask!

  • What is your Organization’s “Ask”?
  • If customers are assets, then how should they best be managed? What innovation investment portfolios represent opportunities for healthy growth and returns?
  • If customers were a product or a service, what would its most valuable and appealing attributes be?

Certainly a great book to have in your library and reference it over and over again!

My other top 3 most popular medium.com articles that Readers have appreciated and may be valuable learning to you too are:

  1. The Mom Test: https://medium.com/@feelinspired/things-i-learnt-the-mom-test-by-rob-fitzpatrick-9d9d58ce8098
  2. The Productivity Framework for Product Managers: https://medium.com/producthood/productivity-framework-for-product-managers-97aac74b9e9a
  3. The Professional Product Owner:


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I love the profession of Product Management that helps me build meaningful relationships with teams and customers. I just can’t get enough of reading!


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