5 Overlooked Benefits of Blueprinting

5 Overlooked Benefits of Blueprinting

What does a completed New Product Blueprinting project provide? The final output is, of course, a market-vetted business case. One that contains the DNA of new product success. Whereas most new product ventures use internal ideas as inputs, a Blueprinting-born venture uses the customer’s desired outcomes. The Blueprinting project will result in a lower risk, higher potential project. However, there are other, perhaps less obvious benefits to the practice of executing Blueprinting projects. In this article, we discuss five overlooked benefits.

1. Learn the unknown unknowns

A senior businessman with a blindfold on.

In 2002, in response to a question about the evidence linking Iraq to weapons of mass destruction, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made the following statement:

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s the things we do know that ain’t so.”

While this almost seems to be a rambling statement, the truth of it rings clear. There really are unknown unknowns. The questions that we do not even know to ask. Because of Blueprinting’s commitment to minimize internal bias and focus on customer problems, we have a great chance to learn things that we didn’t even think to ask about.

2. Unlearn the things we do know…that aren’t true

Though the Rumsfeld statement is often quoted, a similar concept was voiced by Artemas Ward, an American Revolutionary War general. General Ward is credited with the following:

“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s the things we do know that ain’t so.” 

In business, we fall victim to the repetition bias. That is, when we hear something over and over again, it starts to feel more like a fact. On this basis, many erroneous concepts become accepted as “facts” within the strategy rooms as well as the lunch rooms. It can even be detrimental to a career to offer an alternative view. The only hope is to get in front of customers – and Blueprinting provides the perfect structure for this.

3. Align the development team for action

In the New Product Blueprinting coursework, students learn to execute Blueprinting with interdisciplinary teams. Why is this? First of all, if the marketing folks executed the project, then “threw the results over the wall” to engineering, then the engineering team would likely not be totally convinced by the data alone. However, if marketing and engineering do the project together, then both are bought in. Internal biases will fade and strong working relationships will emerge. Later, after the Blueprinting project is completed and development has begun, the multiple functions will continue to work together as a team. They will be aligned to solve the customer problems that they learned together.

4. Make better decisions through market intuition

Whether designing new products, new incentive programs for the channel, or next year’s strategic plan, decisions must be made. It is not always pragmatic to commission more research to support every decision point. And yet, we need accurate and decisive actions to build and execute all these plans. If a business will commit to execute Blueprinting projects, the time spent in the field will provide the intuition to make the calls when needed. I once knew a business leader who, when in the middle of a contentious strategic argument, liked to ask the question, “When was the last time someone in this room actually spoke to a customer?” Silence would replace the bickering. And the point was as golden as the silence. To have the intuition required to make business decisions, those decision makers should spend the time to understand the market first.

5. Build sales relationships

Closeup of a businesspeople shaking hands together

Sales effectiveness in B2B is based upon understanding customer problems and building relationships. While Blueprinting is built to quantify customer problems, the overall process also serves to build relationships.  Most sales people push sales literature too much and listen too little. As a participant on a Blueprinting team, the sales person will have an opportunity to invest in the customer relationship by virtue of this extended listening session that just happens to have the formal sounding “New Product Blueprinting” moniker. This “relationship building” component is absent from typical B2C market research.

As a person who loves the fuzzy front end of new product development, it is easy for me to personally forget about these five overlooked benefits of Blueprinting projects. As a group, they will enhance a business’s ability to grow through innovation by becoming a smarter organization, minimizing dangerous biases and by building internal and external relationships.

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