95: ZTE Wants Your Ideas For Its Next Mobile Device

Aug 18, 2016

What phone do you have? Are you fiercely loyal to Android or Apple? No matter what brand you have assigned yourself to the truth is the market is appearing a little bit…well samey. Yet analysts wonder why phone sales are dropping off. Step forward ZTE who had a crazy idea of crowdsourcing ideas for their next big mobile device. They want your ideas, and the best ones will actually get made and go on sale next year. Upon hearing this, I invited the guys on the show. Thankfully the VP of Technology Planning and Partnerships, Jeff Lee, agreed to come on the show and tell us about this fascinating new concept.

Can you tell the listeners a little about yourself and what you do?

I’m at ZTE, and my title is VP of Technology Planning and Partnerships. What that means is I manage the software evolution. We’re an Android-based manufacturer and what sets ZTE apart is in how users use their devices, and that comes in the form of software, so that’s what I manage.

Jeff Yee

Can you tell the listeners a little more about Project CSX?

Project CSX stands for Crowd Source X. X can literally be any device. ZTE might be best known for mobile smart phones, but we do many different types of devices. In short what project CSX is is we are looking for the best ideas to come from users. We want to hear about the device that they would like us to build for their future.

Where did the idea for Project CSX come from?

One is our motto which is consumers are at the heart of everything that we do. We try to put our ear to the ground and listen to consumers. The other is a realization of how the product development life cycle is changing. The traditional way is to think of an idea and put it down and explore the idea with users in the form of focus groups to bounce ideas off of them and refine it and eventually take it to market. We’ve found we can do that better. We can get users to tell us which devices they want us to build and we can get them involved in the creation, engineering, and design of that. We reworked our product development life cycle to engage the users through every phase and in fact, they are leading it now. They are coming up with ideas and voting on it, and ZTE is just the facilitator.

If anyone listening has an idea how do they submit that and what level of detail are you expecting?

We’ve broken it into different phases. Go to www.community.zte.com, and you will find the link for CSX (the project name). Right now we’re just looking for the ideas. This is actually a realization of how things are developed within companies in the product development life cycle. Ideas don’t necessarily just come from engineers, sometimes they come from small marketing teams, and sometimes they come sales teams. They aren’t necessarily involved in the how something gets developed. Literally, that means anyone right now can come up with an idea. We’re just looking for those big ideas. They just need to describe what the product is, how the user will use it and more importantly how it’s different.

What other kinds of responses have you had so far? Have you been surprised by the quality of ideas submitted?

There is some amazing level of detail people get into. The sketches and designs they are drafting are incredible. I have reservations on some that I don’t think are top quality. We’ve seen a mix of both. I want to challenge users to get to more level of detail because they are supplying the idea to ZTE, but the users in the community are the ones voting on it. The better they can explain their idea the better chance their idea will move through to the next phase.

What are the deadlines and stages for entry?

We’ve broken it into a couple of key phases. This phase is what we call the big idea phase. What we want right now is just those ideas, and those ideas will eventually be narrowed down. It doesn’t have to be a Smartphone; I want to make sure that’s clear. We’re looking for the next big thing. Those ideas are due September 1st.

After that, we go through a voting phase through Sep 12th, and at the end of that we narrow it down to three ideas. The second phase kicks off after that which is when we invite engineers and designers to submit their concepts on what the ideas should look like and how to build it. We wrap things up in October with a grand prize finale. It’s the voting on the top five concepts, and the winner is the device that ZTE is committed to building.

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