Outside Innovation, roughly speaking, is the process of using your customers and vendors as a resource to develop and define your products. With the onslaught of Web 2.0, it is everywhere. iPhone apps, Progressive Insurance and Lulu to name a few.
We looked at these very good companies and asked, why not use Outside Innovation for general service contracting in the trade show and event industry? Customers have been begging for it since 1971 (see previous post).
The general service contractor provides a key role in the knowledge base or eco-system of a trade show or event. The majority of the show organizers have 1-4 events. An established general service contractor will produce hundreds if not thousands of events and service 10 times that in exhibitors. If a general service contractor really cared about the clients (both show mangers and exhibitors) they would aggressively mine and analyze these experiences and the ensuing feedback data, then create and deploy innovative solutions to the industry to ensure that users were being heard.
WOW, imagine that, products that meet the expectation of the user. How quaint.
A classic case that has many parallels was recently written in Patricia Seybold’s Outside Innovation blog post “How to Revolutionize Your Industry". Seybold asks, "If your business model is under siege, what should you do?" As fitting as it seems, Seybold was not talking about the trade show general service contractor. She was talking about the educational textbook industry, which she makes the additonal points as it relates to the stakeholders:
• Customers don’t choose what to buy -- the students who buy the books don’t get to choose which books to buy (their professors assign them).
• There’s no feedback mechanism for students to react to the material in the textbooks, nor to interact with the people who write them.
• There are no real alternatives to traditional textbooks, so publishers can’t tell what their customers would prefer.
When we looked at the statement, what struck us is similarities to the relationship among show mangers, exhibitors and general service contractors. It is not to say that there aren't good vendors, (be it contractors, publishers or authors) but the lack of feedback mechanisms and lack of listening has led to stagnation as it pertains to new innovation within the community.
So how do we start? Well this blog is not about us telling you what we think. It is about you contributing to change the event industry. We will listen. We will interpret. We will risk and explore. You just tell us what you feel. The first step is filling out the survey from the previous post. It is just a few questions, but it will give us a direction. Or comment on this one. Tell us we are crazy. Tell us it is a great idea and this is what you want. Don’t tell us anything. We are listening regardless, and even unanswered questions lead us in a direction.
Look forward to working together. See you on the floor.