Another new Product Management Blog

Here’s another new blog worth following.

Make sure you read the article entitled Utilize Patterns to Catalyze Innovation. Good stuff.

One very good point in the article:

I thrive on customer feedback, but I often forget that you cannot rely upon the customer to innovate. Let me say that again – you cannot rely upon your customer to innovate for you. Countless studies have shown that customers simply do not make the leap required to be truly innovative.

One objectives of speaking to customers (and partners, and lost accounts and in fact any other outside source) is to not simply understand what they want, or what they need, but to really understand their objectives and goals, their alternatives, their constraints, their dependencies and their dependents.

It’s not just about defining and understanding personas, but about the connections between personas and the motivations that drive them. This is not easy stuff to collect and is certainly not something that can be “time-sliced” into one’s job.

But, a small investment in this insight up front, will pay HUGE dividends downstream, both in optimizing internal efforts, but also in being able to create products that map well to market needs.



5 responses to “Another new Product Management Blog

  1. “Countless studies have shown that customers simply do not make the leap required to be truly innovative.”

    I would have to disagree with this point. In fact, user innovation is a hot topic in the study of innovation and creativity. Dr. von Hippel of MIT has published some great work on this subject, and the OECD has also picked up on this.

    It might be fair to say this about most customers, but ignoring the innovations of your customers is a mistake. After all, what better way is there to understand the needs of your customers than to see how some of them have solved them themselves?

  2. Jason,

    Good point and I agree with the specificity of “most customers”.

    There are always a small set of users — typically called “lead users” — who will be the innovators. While it is important to work with customers/users, it’s very important to find the lead users and create relationships with them that can be used to identify new areas of innovation.

  3. It’s been my experience that customers (the vast majority of the time) will give you suggestions for evolutionary improvement – faster, bigger, smaller, brighter, etc., but they will not provide revolutionary, innovative ideas.

    Edwards Deming may have said it best “The customer generates nothing. No customer asked for electric lights… No customer asked for photography… No customer asked for an automobile… No customer asked for an integrated circuit.”

    Certainly we need to maintain close ties with our customers, especially the “lead users” as you say, but don’t expect them to make the revolutionary jumps your product and company need to stay ahead of the competition.

  4. The Deming line has been used by people to brush aside the input of customers. There are a few different contexts here. And I don’t agree that the customer “generates nothing”.

    The things you cite above — cars, electric lights, etc. — were disruptive but evolved along a path. The world didn’t go from horse and buggy to Model T with nothing in between.

    Most customers will use a product for it’s intended purpose and thus only focus on evolutionary changes. Nothing wrong with that. It’s how markets evolve.

    A few people will look beyond the evolutionary need at new solutions. That’s how new markets are created.

    Both are good and have value. We should not discard one because it is not as novel as the other.

    A lot of truly new ideas come from those who have inter-disciplinary skills and knowledge. Why? Because they look at situations differently or with different frames of references than others. Gladwell talks about this in some of his writing.


  5. A lot of product maangement companies that I have consulted with have had to address the amount and quality of input that they collect from customers, and how they process that input.

    One common part of the solution has been to use a “Problem Statement.” the problem statement is composed by taking the inputs and requests from customers, interal employees, market data, and other market sensing activities and useing them all to identify problems that the market(including customers) need addressed.

    The relationship between the specific input that the market gives and the problem statement that the product maanger develops is maintained and used as evidence and justification for innovative solutions that are identified later.

    Unlike the notion that you simply translate what the customer wants into what they need, the problem statement is not a rewording of the input, but the results of collaboration, innovation, and insight within the product management teams community. Whether it is just their company, or a larger open community.