Voice of the Customer

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The 2nd of 5 Dominant Patterns in Innovation – Task Unification

Defy the Voice of the Customer, the traditional cornerstone of Marketing and Innovation, and consider the power of the Voice of the Product instead.

In Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) we turn traditional customer-centric thinking upside down and we focus on the existing product. We center our thinking around the existing situation and systematically manipulate it to generate new ideas. Only after we have found an idea, we look for potential customer demand. With a possible solution in hand, we research patterns of customer behavior, tension points or unmet needs. We start with a solution and then identify the problem.

When we talk about the existing situation, we not only consider products, but also services, processes and business models. For simplicity sake, we will use the term “product” in our examples.

The existing situation is considered in its immediate environment, the imaginary box, or, as the founders of the method call it, the Closed World. A product only becomes meaningful and adds value in the context in which it is used. To illustrate this, imagine a simple product: a screwdriver. In the immediate environment of the screwdriver we could find a picture frame that needs hanging, a wall, screws, a toolbox with other tools, and a person. This is what we consider the Closed World of the screwdriver. We will talk more about this in upcoming posts, but the basic concept will suffice for now.

The pattern that we will discuss today is called Task Unification. In this approach, an existing resource of a product gets an additional task that was previously carried out by something else. Let’s have a look at a few examples.

 

Have you ever noticed how much waste is left behind in the park after a picnic? This makes parks look unattractive, it can cause health issues and it is a general concern for park management. CleanPicnic has created a picnic blanket that people can pick up for free at the entrance of the park. It not only serves as a nice picnic blanket, but it is designed in such a way that it can also be used as a waste bag to collect all waste after the picnic. The picnic blanket has been given the additional task of collecting waste.

 

Another great example of Task Unification is the Defender 24/7. This is a new personal protection system that not only takes down the attacker with […]

By |October 21st, 2016|2016, Blog|0 Comments

Stop listening to the Voice of the Customer in innovation

Do your customers know what they want? Do they have any idea what their needs will be in the future? Can they tell you what it is that they are willing to pay for?

Suppose you have a business manufacturing high-quality leather wallets and you would like to innovate your product. You start by asking your customers how they will be using the wallet in the future and what changes they would like to see. The feedback you get might vary from using a more premium type of leather, to space for more credit cards or a slimmer design. If you would base your innovation only on this, your sales could plunge or you could go out of business entirely.

The problem is that people typically cannot see a wallet having another function than containing cash and cards, nor can they imagine another way of storing cash and cards unless presented with it. That’s just how the human mind works, a condition of cognitive bias or functional fixedness.

How often have you come across a product or a service thinking: “This is so great, if only I could have had this years ago”. Did no one ask for it? Apparently not, or not enough. How many people have asked Apple back in 2006 before the introduction of the iPhone: “Hey, I want an iPhone and I am willing to pay a lot of money for it”?

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Let’s move away from listening to the Voice of the Customer as the first step in the innovation process. Instead, we should consider the Voice of the Product. What could the product itself tell us? What virtual products or services could we think of if we would cleverly manipulate the existing situation? And only at this point in the process we check back in with our customers to see if it could be of value to them.

Circling back to the wallet. How about we change the shape of the wallet and turn it into a smartphone cover? Can we find any benefits in doing this? We certainly can. How much cash are people carrying nowadays? What about the trend towards mobile banking and mobile payments? How many credit, debit and loyalty cards will we keep carrying around in our wallet? What will the content of the wallet of the future be: cards or a smartphone? […]

By |March 24th, 2015|2015, Blog|0 Comments