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Visionary customers: source of long-term competitive advantage
Strategy & Leadership (2018)
  • Robert C. Wood, San José State University

This case describes how Varian Medical Systems, the successor to one of the pioneers of Silicon Valley, created a business with $11.6 billion in market cap by listening to dreams of its physician customers and their scientist colleagues and finding ways to fulfill them over several decades.


A key business opportunity that spurred the company was to identify the most perceptive thought-leader customers, then bring them into a long-term, system-building partnership.


If companies envision the future and work with perceptive, far-sighted customers and others who will benefit from high-value innovation, together they stand a real chance of achieving a desired future.

Practical implications

Establish forums where perceptive, visionary customers meet with executives, marketers and key developers to identify what you should deliver in the immediate future and in years beyond.


The case described the practical steps the company took to implement customer participation in the innovation process over many decades.
  • Customer inspired innovation,
  • Targeted radiation therapy,
  • Value chain innovation,
  • Varian Medical Systems,
  • Visionary customers
Publication Date
February, 2018
Citation Information
Robert C. Wood. "Visionary customers: source of long-term competitive advantage" Strategy & Leadership Vol. 46 Iss. 3 (2018) p. 29 - 36 ISSN: 1087-8572
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