VJAM was a project that assembled the mix of diverse partners most likely to deliver new ideas. It brought together Virgin Atlantic (VAA), customers and independent web developers to explore how open innovation can benefit all.
As with any business, listening to its customers is paramount to VAA's success. Yet its focus on controlling the highly distinct and powerful Virgin brand has meant that the airline has traditionally resisted collaborations with end-users that go further than seeking their views. Engaging their customers in the innovation process was in itself an innovation for VAA.
What we offered with VJAM was the chance for VAA to gain fresh insights from its customers that led to new products and services in the form of web applications, which the 'VJammers' help to develop. VJAM gave the airline user-led innovations that are relevant and that work, while the developers own their contributions. These concrete gains for company and customer re-balance what is often an unequal relationship, making it an attractive (and exciting) process for both.
VJAM launched in November 2008 with a day-long workshop to share insights about how social networking can improve the travel experience. Participants were invited to bring with them 'enthusiasm, an open mind and ideas about the future of travel'.
Of all the ideas that the day engendered, six social media projects were selected to receive initial funding from both NESTA and VAA. Virgin then worked with each of the participants to produce prototypes or proof of concept work to develop the ideas and prepare them for further investment. The successful VJammers kept the intellectual property of their ideas, and Virgin Atlantic had first refusal on licensing the products.
The successful projects range from the highly functional (for instance Taxi 2 www.taxi.to a web-based social network where Virgin passengers can share transport to and from airports) to the the highly social (for instance the new Virgin Atlantic Facebook app, a first for any airline).
Virgin Atlantic customers participating in the VJAM programme have come up with two new beta services for the aviation giant.
The first is a website that enables passengers to link up with other travellers on their flight, so they can share a taxi ride when they get to their destination. The second service is a Facebook application that allows Flying Club members to view their flight information and Flying Club details through their Facebook account.
To find out more about these services, visit Virgin Atlantic.