Customer Insight & Value Creation

Mission
Our research theme “Customer Insight & Value Creation” aims  to contribute to high-value innovations of Zeeland-based SMEs. Considering both importance and challenges of the earliest innovation phases, our activities focus on the front-end of innovation. To this aim we develop knowledge and methods that are directly applicable in SMEs. Apart from a direct relation with entrepreneurs, we also collaborate closely with suppliers, and educational and non-profit institutes in the SME domain. In this way our efforts contribute to business processes and value propositions, learning concepts and content, and  governmental policies. 

Defining high-value innovation
We believe high-value innovation is key for sustainable growth. High-value innovations are innovations that offer significant value to three beneficiaries: the customer, the firm and society. Although process or product improvements might bring long-lasting value as well, the literature  learns that it is mostly the business model and radical type of innovations that do so.  This looks like an easy choice then, but unfortunately, radical innovation projects are also the most difficult and risky ones. Comparable research teaches us that radical projects fail more  often and encounter different challenges than incremental projects. On the bright side, research also shows how experienced entrepreneurs succeed more often in higher-value innovations, thus hinting at the potential of training and education to improve radical innovation success rates

Challenges in the front-end
Clearly, the challenges in a radical innovation project are numerous. However, our Customer Insight & Value Creation theme chooses to concentrate on the issues of the earliest innovation phase, a phase also known as the Fuzzy Front End (FFE). The reason for doing this is twofold. First off all, we believe that this phase is a very critical one. The FFE requires substantial customer learning in order to define: 1. Customer problems and customer needs, 2. Concepts to solve issues and address needs, and 3. The impact and value of these concepts.  Therefore, decisions that are taken in the FFE touch upon the core of the innovation and have far-reaching consequences. Secondly, we believe that the FFE still offers ample improvement opportunities, especially for SMEs. In contrast to what its name suggests, a successful FFE process is oftentimes not fuzzy at all, but rather systematic, calling for a synchronized deployment of means, skills and competences. Such rational behaviour  is more often observed in bigger firms, while  SMEs  often seem to struggle with formal processes and methods like e.g. qualitative market research.  Such adoption failures are often explained by typical SME characteristics of smallness and newness, calling for a unique FFE approach. However, the question how such a unique FFE approach for small firms looks, like remains largely unanswered to date. 

Examples of our activities
The Customer Insight & Value Creation theme intents to answer this question ultimately seeking to improve learning capabilities in the FFE. We do this by generating customer and market knowledge, and by developing methods and programs. Of course, our experts work in close cooperation with SME stakeholders, but also, we like to involve our students wherever their assistance adds value. Examples of our activities are:

- trend analysis;
- customer need identification;
- stakeholder analyses;
- opportunity identification workshops;
- Idea-generation workshops; 
- impact modelling;
- maturity scanning ;
- in-company training.

We carefully monitor results of these activities and this, in its turn, enables higher order learning and adds to our impact. It enables further understanding on the success and failure across industries. And this, successively supports educational and policy purposes.  

Contact

Do not hesitate to contact us if you are interested in learning more on the Customer Insight and Value Creation theme. We will be happy to share our insights with you. 

Researchers

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