Customer-centric development is the most important product trend in a long time. The Trendwatching folks present a great write-up summarizing the issues and opportunities.
Product development today is all about listening to feedback loops. The broadcast mentality of “message, message, message” is dying. [Doc Searls: “There is no demand for messages.“] Instead, product developers will need to learn how to listen to multiple constituents (not just their boss), ask questions (not try to tell people what to think), evaluate the context of suggestions (not take everything at face value), and figure out how to engage customers in an on-going conversation (customer service is an asset, not an out-source). The discipline of market research is already changing, thankfully, from quantitative to qualitative methods. There’s still room for statistics, large samples, and cool charts and graphs, but more important is the narrative that customers and developers co-create.
And, to be clear, everything is a product. Products are the dominant way that people in capitalist societies determine and exchange value. Even the local land trust “sells” a “product” — participation in preserving land. How do your customer-centric activities and budgets compare with your broadcast message operations?