In a great example of blurring the lines between company and customer, Google just launched a program that gives developers greater access to its search-based advertising system.
"There are a lot of things Google hasn't thought of that people could do with their ad campaigns," said Nelson Minar, a Google software engineer. "One of goals is to enable advertisers and third parties to create tools for their own purposes."
I also recently heard about The Lego Factory from Jake, where kids (and grown-ups) use a Digital Designer to make digital models and submit them to weekly competitions. This is where Lego gets a lot of its ideas for new models.
So instead of thinking they know best, or paying for customer research, these two companies are getting free product development by their customers. More connections, better conversations, stronger brands. Good stuff.