Commercialize Technology

Does your company develop exciting new technology… and struggle to commercialize it? Follow these six steps, to 1) rapidly identify the best market(s) for your technology, 2) develop a product for the market based on known—not guessed—customer needs, and 3) halt work on dead-end projects quickly. With this approach you can create bigger, bolder technology with confidence you can turn it into a strong revenue stream.

Preview: Commercialize Technology

Perhaps your company’s engineers or scientists have developed some cool new technology. But can you commercialize it? And if you can, how long will it take to find the right market for it? If your company struggles to commercialize technology today, try these six steps.

Step 1. Separate your jungle animals and farm animals. Your technology development projects are untamed, jungle animals: You don’t completely understand them, and you’re not sure what they’ll do or where they’ll go next. Your product development projects are predictable farm animals. You know what they’re supposed to do, and who they’re supposed to do it for. The two are very different: Technology development is science-facing; product development is market-facing. Technology development turns money into knowledge; product development turns knowledge back into money.

Step 2. Select your first target market segment. To commercialize technology efficiently, you need to target the most attractive market segment(s) as soon as possible. Why this focus on market segments? The only way to successfully commercialize technology is by improving important, unmet customer outcomes in customer jobs-to-done. Since customer outcomes and jobs-to-be-done are unique to each market segment, you must explore each segment individually.

Step 3. Investigate all assumptions that “must be true.” When you commercialize technology, be nervous about hidden assumptions. These are factors that must be true for your new product to succeed, which are not properly addressed. Think of these as potential “landmines” that could blow up your project’s schedule, budget or viability. Identify them as soon possible. After all, no one steps on a landmine they can see.

Step 4. Explore assumptions about customer needs first. You may have dozens of assumptions in the red “Danger” and yellow “Caution” zones. So which do you investigate first? It’s usually wise to begin with customer needs. Research shows that misunderstanding customer needs is the primary cause of new product failures. This is especially true when you commercialize technology in unfamiliar markets. Also, if you’re a B2B supplier you can understand customer needs quickly and at very low cost.

Step 5. Try to kill your project quickly. Astro Teller, head of Google X, once said… “We spend most of our time trying to prove we’re wrong. We run at all the hardest parts of the problem first. We cheer… ‘Hey… how are we going to kill our project today?!’” What does this mean for you? Be on the constant look-out for landmines as you investigate all those assumptions that “must be true” for your project to succeed. You’re looking for one that is not true.

Step 6. Test the next market segment (maybe). When you commercialize technology, one of three scenarios usually takes place: 1) You succeed with the first market segment and then target a second. 2) You fail with the first market segment and then target a second. 3) You fail with the first market segment and stop. The difference between the second and third scenarios is determined by why you failed. Was it for market-specific reasons or something else?

We’ve called these six steps “foolproof” for a reason. They are certainly no guarantee that you can successfully commercialize any new technology you develop. But these steps do ensure you accomplish the following:

  • Find the best market(s) for your technology as quickly as possible.
  • Develop a product for this market based on known—not guessed—customer needs.
  • Stop work on dead-end projects as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible.

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