The idea behind services blueprinting is fairly simple: Companies put themselves in their customers' shoes to find out what's working, what's not, and what needs to be changed. According to a new paper from three W. P. Carey researchers, the method offers a surprisingly flexible means of helping companies understand how well, or not, they are serving their customers.

In the old economy, manufacturing led the way and regions competed largely by offering a low-cost environment in which businesses could operate. In the new economy, innovation and new technologies lead economic gains, and education takes on greater importance, since innovative economies are also knowledge-based. The Innovation Indicators Dashboard, produced by the L. William Seidman Research Institute with support from the governor's office through the Arizona Department of Commerce, is a new tool designed to help policymakers measure the state's competitiveness — particularly its capacity for innovation.

The home-equity loan industry is crowded with competitors, making it tough for mortgage companies to hang onto market share — much less grow revenue, according to Brad Connor, president of Chase Home Equity, who recently spoke at the 18th Annual Compete Through Service Symposium, sponsored by the Center for Services Leadership at the W. P. Carey School of Business. But helmed by Connor, Chase Home Equity has managed to grow market share and profits this year. How did he do it? With a creative strategy focusing on new services and products, an emphasis on employee-generated innovation, clever marketing and a whole-hearted plunge into high tech.

Where would YouTube be today if not for its millions of users? What good would Wikipedia be without all of those contributors? And how successful could IKEA possibly be if its customers weren't willing to assemble their own furniture? Stephen Brown, a professor of marketing at the W. P. Carey School of Business, says the answer is simple: If not for the contributions of their customers, all three of those remarkable business successes would be anything but successful. And there's a lesson in that, says Brown, for companies of all kinds.