Awkward Reality #315

The Vitality Index is like a faulty thermostat.

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The Vitality Index–% of revenue from new products—is the most popular innovation metric today. But the feedback loop is soooo long. Let’s say you implement a new practice in the front-end of innovation, like improved customer interviews. It will take years for those projects to be developed, launched and register significant sales. This is like turning up your thermostat and having the furnace come on. Next week. For more download our white paper, New Innovation Metrics.

More in article, 3 Problems with Innovation Metrics

Awkward Reality #314

Quiz: Which of these initiatives leads to rapid, profitable, sustainable growth?

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Here are your choices: 1) quality upgrades, 2) productivity gains, 3) cost cutting, 4) sales training, 5) customer intimacy, 6) global expansion, 7) acquisitions, and 8) market-facing innovation. There’s only one correct answer and it’s #8: market-facing innovation. The others may be fine initiatives, but they won’t deliver growth that is rapid, profitable and (especially) sustainable. Not so sure about that?

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

Awkward Reality #313

Do you have a weak link in your 3-link chain to organic growth?

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Reliable growth boils down to three linked principles. 1) Your company’s only path to profitable, sustainable organic growth is to create customer value. 2) You only create customer value when you satisfy customer needs that were important and unmet. 3) You must first understand customer needs. You cannot efficiently, effectively improve that which you do not fully comprehend. So it’s time to stop thinking about voice-of-customer as just “one more initiative.” It’s much more. It’s the first link in the growth you want.

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

Awkward Reality #312

Customer Needs: from ‘guessing’ to ‘understanding’ to ‘modeling.’

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Qualitative customer interviews let you move from ‘guessing’ to ‘understanding’ customer needs. But proper quantitative interviews provide the insight you need to ‘model’ customer needs. This means you can design your new product with confidence… know how to make intelligent tradeoffs… and even understand how customers will react to your product without seeing a prototype. This works only for B2B and will someday be a common practice. But it’s uncommon today… and a profound competitive advantage.

See how in the article, B2B Customer Needs: Predict the customer’s experience with modeling.

Awkward Reality #311

What innovation muscles are you building?

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Champions in any sport know which muscle groups to build… with balance. A rock climber with great finger strength also needs superb core strength. You have two primary innovation muscle groups… one to understand customer needs and one to meet those needs with your new products. Your B2B business might be spending tens of millions of R&D on the latter muscle group. Keep these “meeting” muscles in shape… but start building your “understanding” muscles. That’s how you get to the top ahead of competitors.

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

Awkward Reality #310

“We talked about it so much, we thought we had done it.”

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This is how one client described his experience with one of his company’s initiatives. Take understanding customer needs, for example. Many companies discuss and debate this year after year, but the wheels just keep spinning without traction. Nothing worthwhile happens until a) people are trained, b) metrics are established and c) new behaviors are rewarded. As Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

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

Awkward Reality #309

Don’t intermingle technology-development and product-development.

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Do you clearly distinguish between technology development and product development? Technology development is science-facing, while product development is market-facing. Technology development turns money into knowledge, and product development turns knowledge back into money. Keep technology and product development separate if you want to avoid confusion and inefficiency. Milestones on a Gantt chart are great for product development, but good luck scheduling technical breakthroughs in your lab.

More in article, Timing is Everything (p6).

Awkward Reality #308

Always separate customer “needs” into two buckets.

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As explained by Tony Ulwick in What Customers Want, the term customer “needs” can be confusing. It’s best to separate what customers want into outcomes (their desired end-result, or the “what”) and solutions (your answer to their need, or the “how”). Keep your interview focused on their outcomes, not solutions. If they offer a solution, simply ask, “What would that do for you?” Poof: You’re back into outcome space where you want to be.

More in article, Discovery Interview Blunders that Frustrate Your Customers.

Awkward Reality #307

In B2B customer interviews, silence really is golden.

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In the best B2B interviews, you ask “What other problems do you see?” or “What would your ideal world look like?” The customer leads the interview—not you—because you never know what they’ll say next. But allow some silence: Don’t fill the void by saying, “for example, would it help if…?” Your patience may be rewarded with a customer need you would never have heard otherwise… one that could lead you to develop a blockbuster product. Silence—and the thinking it allows—can indeed be golden.

More in article, Discovery Interview Blunders that Frustrate Your Customers.