Exactly 1 month ago, I posted on Dell's plan to offer machines with pre-installed Ubuntu Linux based on the overwhelming positive response to this suggestion by users of IdeaStorm, Dell's customer ideation website. Today I visited Dell.com and was thrilled to see the graphic below (click to see a full-size version) on their homepage. The big caption reads, "By Popular Demand, Ubuntu Has Arrived." and below, "The Dell community spoke, and we listened." Homepage real estate is sacred ground, and I love that Dell is using homepage visibility to send this message loud and clear to their customers, both first-timers and the die-hards that fill the pages of IdeaStorm with thousands of new product, service, support, and branding ideas and suggestions.
With inspiration from IdeaStorm, a Digg-like site that enables users to suggest and vote on new ideas, I've been thinking a lot about the concept of customer-driven ideation. Maybe I'm dressing the concept up with the word "ideation" but I think "suggestion" sells the concept short and brings to mind old and dusty customer suggestion boxes that might as well be black holes for customer input! Ideation is more interactive and mutual, an invitation to the customer to really get involved in the creative process of product and service development and branding. Imagine for a second that just 25 of the top of consumer products brands had customer ideation communities like IdeaStorm, wherein the best (according to the customer!!) ideas surfaced to the top of the stack for all to see. Imagine the amount of customer-focused innovation that would follow. To put this into perspective, the Dell community has posted 5384 ideas on IdeaStorm, as of today, and they have posted almost 24,000 comments.
I really want to see more companies follow Dell's lead in creating online, interactive ideation communities that invite customers to submit and defend their ideas and suggestions. Not all of these ideas are going to be great, but with the right tools in place, a community of passionate customers can very efficiently separate the wheat from the chaff. I would love to hear your thoughts on how ideation communities should be designed and even better, what companies and brands you think need them most!