How do you innovate with a focus on the market?

Hot off the press: second updated publication from Customer Innovation

Marion Debruyne

By Marion Debruyne

Professor of Marketing

Koen Tackx

By Koen Tackx

Professor of Marketing

05 March 2019
Customer innovation book cover
  • Follow-up publication to the award-winning management book helps businesses to successfully combine innovation and market orientation
  • 40 new and updated B2C and B2B case studies and more than 30 ‘How to’ boxes with practical tips
  • Strong focus on new developments, such as co-creation and platform strategies 

2014 saw the publication of the first edition of Customer Innovation by Professor Marion Debruyne. The book was immediately hailed as the marketing book of the year 2015 in Belgium, and also won the international CMI Management Book of the Year award in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship category. The second edition, written in collaboration with Professor Koen Tackx, was published last month. “Because things have been busier for me recently and Koen was already making extensive use of Customer Innovation in his lessons, I asked him to come on board,” Marion explains, “and then it became a joint project.” Marion and Koen explain what you can expect from this new publication, which comes highly recommended, even for those who have already read the first edition.

Not either/or, but both together

As the title says, the book is about customer innovation. It provides an answer to the question of how businesses can be both innovative and market-oriented. Moreover, it is not only a matter of being able to do this: these days there is simply no other option but to operate both innovatively and with a focus on the market. What is more, it is a misconception to believe that you cannot be radically or disruptively innovative at the same times as being highly market-oriented. Customer Innovation helps companies and managers to successfully combine the two.

“It is a practical book”, Koen emphasises. “Theoretical concepts are not only clearly explained, but also illustrated using examples. We use 40 different case studies to demonstrate in detail how the organisations in question approach things on the ground. Moreover, there are more than 30 ‘How to’ boxes offering handy tips like ‘How to involve your customers in your decision-making process’, ‘How to anticipate disruptive competition’ and ‘How to fake it till you make it’. Last but not least, when it comes to examples, we have deliberately not focused solely on noteworthy B2C businesses. We have gone for a healthy mix of B2C and B2B.”

Three Cs, three lenses

The first edition introduced the conceptual framework for customer innovation. “And that did not need adjusting”, says Marion. “It is summarised in a two-dimensional, three-by-three matrix – once an engineer, always an engineer.” She laughs. “One dimension defines three lenses through which to look at the market: the zoom lens focuses on existing customers, the wide-angle lens zooms out from the current product offering in order to create a full picture of the whole customer journey, and the fisheye lens zooms out still further in order to pick up signs of impending changes from the wider environment. The other dimension relates to the three skills that a business needs to master: connecting, converting and collaborating. Connecting means making contact with your market, converting is about turning what you learn and pick up into relevant innovation, and the whole thing requires collaboration, both internally and externally. This conceptual framework forms the backbone of the book.”

Co-creation and platform thinking

Of course, the world has not stood still for the past five years. Certain themes that were only briefly explored in the first edition have since developed into important phenomena, and priorities have shifted.

“Co-creation, for example, has recently become a hot topic,” Koen explains. “It’s very much a thing, both in academic literature and amongst managers, but it’s not always obvious how to apply it in practice.”

Marion nods. “Co-creation was already discussed in the first edition, but at that time there was not much literature available on the subject. However we have been able to incorporate this into the second edition. Ecosystems are another theme that we included in the first edition, which has now become far more prominent. Moreover, there is a new development: platform-driven ecosystems. Whoever controls the platform plays a different role to the other partners. Today, booming businesses with high valuations are typically those firms that are controlling the platform. Uber is a good example of this. The organisation is barely ten years old and analysts expect the valuation for this year’s stock market flotation to be as much as 105 billion euros*. Furthermore, we have updated existing case studies, such as Netflix, and added new ones. WeWork, for example, is a fairly young, fast-growing company which, just like Uber, is following a platform strategy. It began by offering an integrated workspace solution for freelancers and starters. The same platform concept was used to expand into new areas: WeLive and WeGrow, for housing and education.”


“This book is of interest both to businesses that have been disrupted by these new developments, and to businesses that see opportunities in them”, Koen concludes.

For anyone who missed the first edition, this new edition is essential reading. But thanks to the many updates and new case studies, this follow-up edition is also extremely worthwhile for those who have already read the first book.

* Source: De Tijd

Curious to read more?

Customer Innovation – Delivering a customer-led strategy for sustainable growth is published by Kogan Page. You can also order the book on Amazon

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