Successes in the I-Cubed Economy

Two examples how things work in the I-Cubed Economy from this morning’s Washington Post business section. First is an example of user-based innovation – Lego’s Robot Redux:

After years of battling computer games for the attention of kids, Lego is fighting back with hackers, the Web and a robot on its side.
The Danish company has updated its Mindstorms line of buildable, programmable robots — a product that debuted to much fanfare in 1998 but that the company had let languish to near-extinction.
. . .
In deciding to revamp the aging Mindstorms robot line, Lego turned to its most faithful core of fans: enthusiasts and hackers who had banded together to form their own online support network. In 2004, Lego e-mailed four of its biggest Mindstorms fans across the United States. The team members spent 10 months advising Lego as the Mindstorms Users Panel, discussing their dream lists of what the next kit should and should not be.

The second story is about understanding the power of information in your business – Sagging Times at Furniture Showrooms:

Bill Diffee Jr. had big dreams for the expansion of the Colony House furniture store that his grandfather founded in 1936.
Three and a half years ago, he built a new store in Centreville to cater to Washington’s increasingly wealthy and growing suburbs. The store had twice as much room for Colony House’s signature high-end traditional furniture as the original location on Lee Highway, just off Route 66 in Arlington. But business never took off.
Two weeks ago, Diffee let go most of the staff and shut down the store.
. . .
“It gets harder and harder for a retailer to differentiate and find that niche that works for them,” said Nick McCoy, a senior consultant at Retail Forward Inc.
. . .
But he [Diffee] remains optimistic about the future. The Arlington store is still successful, he said, especially in design consultation.
He has learned a lesson: Bigger isn’t always better. Now Diffee is trying to target his customers better. He knows they’re still out there.
(emphasis added)

Using information is what makes for success in the I-Cubed Economy — be it emphasizing your design services (furniture) or enlisting users in the product design process. Catering to specific consumer needs rather than just more of the same is the hallmark of this new economy. And many business (and policymakers) may have to learn that lesson the hard way.

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