Collaborating with Customers to Innovate
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Collaborating with Customers to Innovate

Conceiving and Marketing Products in the Networking Age

Emanula Prandelli, Mohanbir Sawhney and Gianmario Verona

The book enriches an important debate in management and in academia on the new product development process. It encompasses marketing approaches and is sharply focused on the opportunities that digital technologies have created for involving customers in collaborative innovation, and actionable recommendations for putting collaborative innovation to work.
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Chapter 6: Virtual Communities

Emanula Prandelli, Mohanbir Sawhney and Gianmario Verona


INTRODUCTION In this chapter, we examine the emerging phenomenon of virtual communities, which is playing an increasingly important role in the distributed innovation process. The Internet has meaningfully and irreversibly changed the way relationships are created and promoted with and among consumers. Consequently, firms have no choice but to develop interactive channels of communication with communities of customers. The Internet lends itself very well as a forum for forming and growing communities, because, at its heart, the Internet is a social medium. It has a decentralized structure with no hierarchical organization, so it allows peer-to-peer conversations to develop without any centralized control. A hallmark of the Internet is its ability to aggregate specialized resources without regard to geography. Increasingly, knowledge diffused on the Web tends to regroup spontaneously around shared interests in the search for affinities and reciprocal enrichment. Specialized knowledge within a specific cluster of people tends to combine with socially generated knowledge between different clusters, permitting learning from very different industries and domains to be synthesized. As such, the Internet has become fertile ground for the germination and growth of communities that combine creativity, knowledge and competences of individual contributors. We open the chapter with some observations on the meaning of the term ‘virtual community’, and we identify contexts within which the concept can be applied. Then, we focus on virtual communities of consumption. In particular, we point out how important it is for firms to strategically manage these communities to maximize their...

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