Customers don’t have all the answers, especially when it comes to product innovation.
Surprised? It’s true.
Customers can do a great job of helping you iterate products. They know that “This button would work better over here,” or “That knob always gets in the way.” Customers are happy to share new feature requests, like “We’d love it if you could add custom reports to your software,” but their insights usually stop right about there.
Customers know how to improve your products because they use your products. They understand what works, what doesn’t, what makes them crazy and what is missing. But when it comes to breakthrough solutions, they’re lost.
Think about it. If your customers REALLY knew how to solve their problems, they wouldn’t need you or your solutions. They would go start their own business addressing that need and make loads of money in the process.
Customers typically have a good understanding of their issues. But they need you to solve them.
How does this subtle difference between iteration and innovation impact your business? If you want to be the runaway leader in your space, it’s imperative to move beyond the norm. Stop thinking about different flavors of the same solution, and think about a different recipe altogether.
One way to approach this is to explore about the goal of the task at hand. What are your customers tying to do? The objective may range from something as simple as listening to music to something as complex as processing a payment.
Sony and Apple both took a radical approach to delivering music to individuals, first with the Walkman and then with the iPod. Not a single customer knew they needed these devices before they entered the market. Customers simply could not envision the solution to their music listening task.
While these two companies are modern examples of radical innovation, search history and you’ll find a host of similar stories. Did we know we needed the light bulb before Edison came along? What about cars, TVs and skateboards? The public was not clamoring for these products, but they sure were happy to buy them when someone else thought them up.
Innovation is not limited to consumer products. Creative solutions to industrial problems can transform manufacturing, production and delivery of products. Software can change the way people work. Look around and you’ll see all kinds of innovation opportunities masked as unsolved – or inadequately solved – problems.
Challenge your team to think differently about these problems, and you just may find a radically different solution. One that’s more elegant, streamlined and efficient than what you offer today.
Your customers will thank you.
Image courtesy of the Jordanhill School D&T Dept.