Awkward Reality #334

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

Awkward Reality #333

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

Awkward Reality #332

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

Awkward Reality #331

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

Awkward Reality #330

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

Awkward Reality #329

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

Awkward Reality #328

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