Justin got fired, kept his job and earned more. WHAT? (Incl. Video)

The story in this blog is pure fiction. The fundamentals of this blog is inspired by the following academic article: Schreier, Martin, Christoph Fuchs, and Darren W. Dahl. “The innovation effect of user design: Exploring consumers’ innovation perceptions of firms selling products designed by users.” Journal of Marketing 76.5 (2012): 18-32.

A couple of days ago I experienced the most impressive thing in my life. A way to earn money for free, for doing nothing. No, I am not talking about the scams advertised in web-popups or the unique offers from ambiguous men on the corner of the street. This time was different. This time I faced the real-thing and the good part of it is that you, as a business owner, can earn money for free too! Let me share this have-to-know story with you…

It was the first Monday morning after my 3-week during holiday. I jumped into my car and head to work, kicking off my working-week at Threadless ltd. Arrived at work, I noticed something was different, my colleagues where not there. Literally, no cars on the parking lot, no bikes, no nothing. The entrance of my office was still open, but the receptionist wasn’t there either. The entire “freaking” office was empty, non of my fellow product developers where present. At first I thought, is this a dream? But then, a couple of minutes later, I saw the Porsche of my boss driving towards the office. He jumped out and spoke the following words to me: “Hi Justin! You can go home, our customers have taken your job, for free!” My natural reply was: “Our customers?” , leaving alone my thoughts “I am fired!?”.

Let me explain, Schreierer et al. (2012) found that common design by users (products developed by customers) enhances the perceived innovation ability of a firm, leading to greater purchase intentions. In other words, by empowering a firm’s customers to build their own products, a company saves money while increasing their future sales. In the extremes, a firm, such as where (I) Justin worked, entirely outsource their product development and fires their employees of the design, innovation or product development department. Examples are LEGO (customers partly develop new LEGO models), Threadless (fashion items designed by users) and Linux (entirely open-sources co-created operating software). The authors describe that products that best-fit for outsourcing product design to users is with products with low-complexity and in markets where users are familiar with user innovation. A large downside is found in the field of luxury products (Fuchs, Christoph, et al. 2013). For each individual firm it is therefore (according to literature) a trade-off between perceived innovativeness and luxury.

Coming back at the case of Justin and Threadless ltd, the business owner and boss determined to fire the entire product development department. Instead of letting employees design their shirts, they outsourced design tasks towards the customer themselves. Interesting to experience is the way the business owner could cut costs and increase their sales. Less costs, more sales: free money, for nothing.

As most fair tales have a happy ending, this was the case for Justin too. He was one of the best product developers of his company Threadless. He determined to continue working on new designs, but now from as a customer / co-creator. In the end his experience and feeling for fashion let to the result of being the best-performing artists on Threadless, earning even more than his former salary [CHECK THE VIDEO OF JUSTIN].

1. Fuchs, Christoph, et al. “All that is users might not be gold: How labeling products as user designed backfires in the context of luxury fashion brands.”Journal of Marketing 77.5 (2013): 75-91.
2. Schreier, Martin, Christoph Fuchs, and Darren W. Dahl. “The innovation effect of user design: Exploring consumers’ innovation perceptions of firms selling products designed by users.” Journal of Marketing 76.5 (2012): 18-32.

Written by: Matthijs van de Grift (416083mg)

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