Now Reading: The Contribution Revolution: Letting Volunteers Build Your Business

This is a short article written by Scott Cook, who happens to be the cofounder and chairman of the executive committee of Intuit, a company whose products many of us use to manage our finances.

The lead in to the article is dramatic enough:

Earlier this year, I spent an intense half-day closeted in a room with the top 70 executives at Intuit. Our aim was to come up with ways that people outside the company could volunteer their time, energy, and expertise to make life better for our customers. Sound odd? Well, if you’re not conducting an exercise like that at your organization, you risk missing the boat on a sea change that’s transforming business.

Cook follows these words with semi-well known case studies of customer contribution, from the likes of Unilever, Honda, Hyatt, and the standards, eBay, Amazon, etc.
The article is useful in that it is written from the executive perspective and so is easy to digest from that leadership level. Scott’s team has also taken the initiative to set up a Wiki on Intuit’s web servers to help others get started (http://usercontribution.intuit.com).

I can personally attest to Intuit’s courage in this realm, as I was recently looking at their product Quickbooks 2009 for Macintosh. If you look at the customer reviews, displayed prominently on the splash page, it’s clear that total honesty is permitted here. The concerns raised are probably already known by the mac user base, and maybe the fact that Intuit posts the reviews lets us know that they know, too.

Mr. Cook provides some evidence and leadership for change agents in other organizations who might need some fuel to take the next step. From that perspective, this article is very useful. Specifically, it lends support to the idea that an organization needs to give this idea adequate mindshare for it to take off.

Speaking of which, there are no health care examples cited. Is health care waiting to leverage user contribution, or is health care waiting for the right organization to leverage user contribution first? The types of patient contribution that I have seen are also much deeper than the ones cited by Cook; however, the ideas here seem like a good start.

By coincidence, I wrote this post in the background of the controversy surrounding Motrin.com. Here’s an example of a problem that might have been prevented if customers were checked with first. The speed of the Twittersphere is less forgiving than even blogs. Even more reason to involve customers throughout the development process.

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