Blog Category: Awkward Realities

Top-quartile growth comes from top-quartile capabilities.

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Do you want serendipitous growth each year… or superior, sustainable organic growth you can count on year after year? For the latter, you’ll need improved capabilities—training, methods and tools—across your organization in many areas. We’ve identified 24 of these “growth drivers” in our research, What Drives B2B Organic Growth. You can see your percentile benchmark rank against others on all 24 with our free B2B Growth Diagnostic. It’s the first step on the road from serendipity to sustainability.

More in article, Is it time for a growth capability diagnostic assessment?

“How’s your new product doing, Joe?”

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How do you know if you’re accepting too much commercial risk in your new product development? You know if Joe answers, “Not sure. Guess we’ll find out next month when we launch it.” Future B2B innovators will think this is nuts. When you innovate for a B2B market, nearly everything needed to eliminate commercial risk is “knowable” in the front end of innovation, before development begins. That’s because your B2B customers have high knowledge, objectivity, interest and foresight (as explained in 2-minute video, Understand your B2B advantage.).

More in article, Target Customer Needs and Win

Should new-product innovators stop showing customers a prototype?

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If you conduct the right kind of B2B quantitative interviews, you don’t need to show customers a prototype to see if they’ll like it. You’ll already know what they want if you use the methods in this 2-minute video: Benchmark Competing Alternatives. However… prototypes can still be helpful to a) further engage customers, b) understand the value your new product delivers, and c) make refinements. But if you’re serving a B2B market, you can stop lobbing prototypes to understand what customers want.

More in article, Predict the customer’s experience with modeling

Business leaders should train like champions in any other endeavor.

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Be it chess or golf, champions know they must train. A striking difference between business leaders and rock climbers is that the former often think they can reach the top without proper training. Imagine showing up at the base of El Capitan with recliner-chair abs, the wrong gear, and no climbing skills. Ridiculous? What about businesses that proclaim double-digit growth plans year after year, but do nothing to prepare for their climb? A good start is acquiring business-wide training and tools for market-facing innovation. (See 2-minute video, Build your growth capabilities.)

More in article, New Product Training: Time to Build Growth Muscles

It’s wise to clearly separate your R&D into 3 buckets.

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Bucket #1 is Technology Development… science-facing innovation that turns money into knowledge. Bucket #2 is Product Development… market-facing innovation that turns knowledge back into money. Bucket #3 is Process Development… optimizing the production of existing products to make money more efficiently. Don’t focus on customer needs for Bucket #1 (it’s too early) or #3 (it’s too late)… but do this very well for Bucket #2. In the entire money-making process, this is your greatest point of leverage today.

More in article, Target Customer Needs and Win

How long have we failed to understand customer needs in new product innovation?

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The best research says we’ve struggled for about five decades now. In 1971, the leading cause of new-product failure was “inadequate market analysis” (45%, with the next cause at 29%). In 2019, the leading cause was “No market need” (42%, with the next cause at 29%). After five decades, maybe it’s time to get serious about understanding customer needs before developing new products? Not that we need to rush into this, of course.

More in article, Target Customer Needs and Win

Transformational R&D projects: 4 Steps the best teams do well.

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You know you’ve got a top-notch team exploring that unfamiliar market or technology when you see them… 1) identify all project assumptions at the onset, 2) detect and defuse unforeseen “landmines” (project killers) as early as possible, 3) advance the project rapidly without detours and distractions (or kill the project swiftly), and 4) spend funds investigating and pursuing only that which truly matters. The methodology for doing this is described in the short video at www.deriskprojects.com.

More in article, How to de-risk projects and overcome management doubt

You need better targeting, not a bigger payload.

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Would you want a bigger payload or a better targeting system for missiles, cancer treatment or gold mining? A bigger payload would be a larger warhead, radiation dosage, or backhoe shovel. Better targeting would be more precise hits on enemy positions, cancer tumors, or ore deposits. Better targeting reduces waste and collateral damage. Same for your R&D: Precisely target customer needs before stepping into the lab. This avoids waste (squandered R&D) and collateral damage (discouragement and slow growth).

More in article, Target Customer Needs and Win

Two completely different reasons for halting a new-product project.

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Imagine two new-product project teams have gate reviews on the same day, and both projects are stopped. The first is stopped for the right reasons, e.g. smaller-than-expected market size or low customer interest… as evidenced by tiny Market Satisfaction Gaps. This is low Opportunity Quality. The second team is stopped due to sloppy work: skimpy customer interviews and much confirmation bias. This is low Execution Quality. Celebrate the first team. Train the second. For every project, make sure you know which is which.

More in article, 3 Problems with Innovation Metrics

Today’s innovation metrics suffer from Why, When, and What problems.

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1. The “Why” problem: Today’s most popular metric, the Vitality Index (% of sales from new products) doesn’t tell you why your % is going up or down. 2. The “When” problem: The lag time in your feedback loop is too long: Changes you make in the front-end-of-innovation will take years to generate significant revenue. 3. The “What” problem: The Vitality index focuses on your results. You need metrics that focus on your capabilities. Only by building these can you have confidence that you’ll improve your innovation results.

More in article, 3 Problems with Innovation Metrics

When developing a new product… think less about it.

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Huh? Well, it’s fine to think about your new product, but do so after you first understand your customers’ job-to-be-done. Only after you identify this JTBD can you properly 1) scope your project, 2) identify the right customer interviewees, 3) frame the best outcome statements for quantitative interviews, 4) optimize design & pricing, and 5) promote your product effectively. Bonus: You’ll have a longer time horizon when you focus on the JTBD instead of your new product.

More in article, Jobs-to-Be-Done and New Product Blueprinting

Five Bonus benefits of new-product voice-of-customer interviews.

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You conduct front-end-of-innovation customer interviews so you can design a great new product, right? Well yes, but… if you do these well, you’re doing more. You’re also 1) learning the unknown unknowns, 2) unlearning the things you do know that simply aren’t true, 3) aligning your development team for action, 4) making better decisions through improved market intuition, and 5) building stronger relationships for near-term sales opportunities.

For more download e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B

The incredible power of customer tours.

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How valuable are B2B customer tours? In the early 1980s, Eugene Goodson led Johnson Controls’ automotive seating group, when a Japanese competitor requested a plant tour. The Japanese team toured for less than an hour and took no notes. Harmless, right? Years later Goodson was able to read the tour report and was shocked at what the Japanese team had uncovered, including a detailed technology description and a highly accurate cost-of-sales estimate.

More in article, A primary VOC tactic: B2B customer tours

Six levels of customer insight: Which describes your business?

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Move your organization up through these levels: 1) Conference-roomers: We meet with ourselves to decide what customers want. 2) Expert-askers: We poll our own sales and tech support personnel. 3) Customer-surveyors: We get customer answers… but only to our questions. 4) Qualitative VOC-ers: Our interviews move us from voice-of-ourselves to voice-of-customer. 5) Quantitative VOC-ers: We get unbiased, unfiltered insights. 6) B2B VOC-ers: Our probing takes advantage of powerful B2B advantages.

More in article, The six levels of B2B customer engagement