The age-old view that if you build it, they’ll come is rarely successful. But neither is the concept of asking customers what they want. If they knew the answer, they would have figured out the innovation themselves. In reality, customers don’t know what they are looking for until they see it. Another school of thought prescribes putting something in front of customers to gauge their reaction and then build it. But that can result in an expensive trial-and-error method. Following these scripts companies often gamble on markets that aren’t there. A more effective innovation strategy is to know what customer inputs truly matter and incorporating these into the innovation from concept to launch. This practice improves dramatically every aspect of the innovation process and its likelihood of success.
Most customers are not very good at describing exactly the features they want but are quite good at articulating the underlying wants and needs and the problems they are encountering with today’s products and services. Understanding this reality makes a big difference in how to approach innovation and the ultimate market results.
Getting the right customer view throughout the product development cycle is essential to get the product right and to aim at the right target. As the product takes shape throughout the various development stages, it goes through constant iterations to eventually get to the final product. Various customer perspectives can be built into the development plan to test the product from start to finish to improve the odds of success.
Development Stage vs. Customer Input
Leading innovators like HP, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Bosch and many others recognize the challenge of getting the right customer view. Customers don’t necessarily know what product they want, but they know what outcomes they desire. Taking advantage of this reality makes a big difference in how to approach innovation and the ultimate market results.
By standardizing the collection and use of the right customer inputs, leading innovators can move from a guessing game to a concrete discipline and a predictable informed process that build on customer value every step of the way. Various customer inputs are built into the development plan to test and shape the innovation from start to finish, and thereby improve the odds of success.
To learn more about innovation strategy and execution, view our publication: “Innovation Strategy: Getting a Winning Product to Market First.”
Anthony W. Ulwick “What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Drive Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services,” McGraw-Hill, 2005, New York, NY
Robert G. Cooper “Winning at New Products” Perseus Publishing, 2001, Cambridge, MA
Paul Belliveau, Abbie Griffin, Stephen Somermeyer “The PDMA Handbook for New Product Development,” John Wiley & Sons, 2004, Hoboken, NJ