“Seeing what everyone else has seen…

…and thinking what no one else has thought” (Albert von Szent-Györgyi) – in this spirit, the Creation Center, part of Telekom Laboratories, develops new product ideas for Telekom. Since its founding in 2008, it serves as a platform where the different agents in the innovation process come together to develop concepts for products and services that are innovative, profitable and valuable for their users, while learning from one another at the same time.

The market success of new products and services is highly dependent on how much they meet customers’ needs and desires. At the Creation Center, the users’ everyday lives, with all their facets and needs, are the center of all considerations and projects. In the co-creation process, they are integrated actively in the development of ideas. Innovative methods make it possible to identify latent, and even future, user needs.

From idea to product

The exploration phase is the first step on the way to new ideas. Methods such as Day in Life and Shadowing, in which selected users are accompanied over a certain period of time, help experts gather important impressions from everyday life. Insights into customers’ habits and preferences can also be gained though Cultural Probes, a kind of toolkit for self-observation. In this approach, users are given disposable cameras, diaries and social maps, which illustrate communication relationships graphically. In particular, “extreme” users – people who use communications technology heavily or not at all – often provide crucial input for innovative ideas.

The recorded everyday observations are analyzed and prepared creatively in interdisciplinary workshops. Developers, managers, designers, technicians and customers work together in the ideation (idea generation) process to create innovations that satisfy both customer needs and the company’s requirements. In the next step, these ideas are checked for profitability and technical feasibility. The best ideas are selected and expanded to form concepts, illustrated with storyboards and then tested using conventional market research methods. This process results in potentially new, customer-centric products and services – under the motto “from customers for customers”.

Recommendations for the digital age

The ideas developed at the Creation Center are integrated in projects at Telekom Laboratories or provide valuable inspiration for the roadmaps of Telekom’s business units. This doesn’t always involve major breakthroughs, because it is often the little things that improve the quality of products and services, delivering more value to the customers. This is supported by eEtiquette, which provides 101 guidelines for communicating in the digital world, though channels such as SMS, e-mail, phone, social networks, videoconferences, blogs and chat. eEtiquette (www.eEtiquette.de) was developed by the Creation Center in cooperation with international users, the Royal College of Art in London and Deutsche Knigge Gesellschaft (German Knigge Society) and will be expanded continually. At the same time, these recommendations for the digital world harbor great potential for further ideas.