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May 22, 2007


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Frank Jania

Here are a couple more that I've found insightful myself:

Turn Customer Input into Innovation

It's difficult to find a company these days that doesn't strive to be customer driven. Too bad, then, that most companies go about the process of listening to customers all wrong. What usually happens is this: Companies ask their customers what they want. Customers offer solutions in the form of products or services. Companies then deliver these tangibles, and customers just don't buy. The reason is simple--customers aren't expert or informed enough to come up with solutions. That's what your R&D team is for. Rather, customers should be asked only for outcomes--what they want a new product or service to do for them. The form the solutions take should be up to you. Using Cordis Corp. as an example, this article describes a series of effective steps for capturing, analyzing, and utilizing customer input. First come in-depth interviews, in which a moderator works with customers to deconstruct a process or activity to unearth "desired outcomes." Researchers then compile a comprehensive list of outcomes that participants rank in order of importance and degree to which they are satisfied by existing products. Finally, using a simple mathematical formula called the "opportunity calculation," researchers can learn the relative attractiveness of key opportunity areas. These data can be used to uncover opportunities for product development, to segment markets properly, and to conduct competitive analysis.

Finding Your Innovation Sweet Spot

Most new product ideas are either uninspired or impractical. So how can developers hit the innovation sweet spot--far enough from existing products to attract real interest but close enough that they are feasible to make and market? They can apply five innovation patterns that manipulate existing components of a product and its immediate environment to come up with something both ingenious and viable, say the authors. The subtraction pattern works by removing product components, particularly those that seem desirable or indispensable. Think of the legless high chair that attaches to the kitchen table. The multiplication pattern makes one or more copies of an existing component, then alters those copies in some important way. For example, the Gillette double-bladed razor features a second blade that cuts whiskers at a slightly different angle. By dividing an existing product into its component parts--the division pattern--you can see something that was an integrated whole in an entirely different light. Think of the modern home stereo--it has modular speakers, tuners, and CD and tape players, which allow users to customize their sound systems. The task unification pattern involves assigning a new task to an existing product element or environmental attribute, thereby unifying two tasks in a single component. An example is the defrosting filament in an automobile windshield that also serves as a radio antenna. Finally, the attribute dependency pattern alters or creates the dependent relationships between a product and its environment. For example, by creating a dependent relationship between lens color and external lighting conditions, eyeglass developers came up with a lens that changes color when exposed to sunlight.

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