Innovation Management Wisdom

Posts filed under 'Product Development'

Skate to Where the Puck Will Be in New Product Development

Here’s a tried and true way to skate to the white space where the new product development puck will be.

  1. Mine your existing customer data.
  2. Build an algorithmic model that predicts the puck’s path in the future, based on past observations.

This approach is quantitatively driven, but, hmmm. Something’s missing…managerial judgment maybe?

On second thought, maybe we should try something new in new product development. Try this…

  1. Look at your existing customer and market data.
  2. Delete obsolete data and conclusions. (The method for doing this is simple. Just complete this sentence, “We’d be delusional to believe this is still so because…”).
  3. Take a SWAG at what you-know-you-don’t-know about customers. (Here’s a starter list: How have buyers been affected by current events? Global warming? Politics? Online reviews of your products? What Apple just did?)
  4. Stop looking at the ice underneath you. Start watching where customers are skating. They have the puck.
  5. Learn what customers are experiencing in their lives, not in your product category. They’re influenced by forces more expansive than your company’s touch points.  (See point 3 above.)
  6. Once you understand why customers are skating in a certain direction you can anticipate where they…and the puck…will be.

February 8th, 2017

Product Development Advanced by Construct Psychology

One word changed the construct research subjects used to answer a question…and opened a flood gate of new product development insights.

We recently did some new product development research for a manufacturer trying to learn how tradesmen evaluate competing power tools. Personal construct psychology informed our approach.

Personal construct psychology (PCP) is a framework for understanding the categorical templates that people use to organize the realities of the world. Each person’s templates evolve in accord with what they learn from past experiences. They lay their templates over new, similar experiences to anticipate what will happen.

By understanding which constructs customer use to distinguish offerings, you can begin to understand which elements of message, product, package and experiential concepts differentiate offerings in customers’ eyes and which don’t.

In our initial draft of the discussion guide, we asked tradesman, “What makes some of these tools better than others?

We got these answers:

  • Durable. It’s going to get banged up on a construction job.”
  • “The manufacturer stands behind their product. They’ll take it back if it breaks.”
  • “You can maintain it easily to increase its working life.”
  • “How much it costs to use.”

While these comments were helpful, they weren’t entirely satisfying. We felt we had tapped constructs that tradesmen use to evaluate the quality of tool manufacturing. This was only tangentially related to what we wanted to know: what constructs do tradesmen use to select tools they’re going to buy?

So, our client agreed to change the question from, “What makes some of these tools better than others?” to, “What makes some of these tools more useful than others?” The word, “useful,” evoked a different contextual construct. It surfaced memories of on-the-job customer experiences where some tools were frustrating to use.

Here’s what we learned over and above what we heard before…

  • Speed. How fast it does the work.”
  • Maneuverability. It needs to fit in tight spaces. It needs to be lightweight.”
  • Portability. Sometimes, electric plugs get kicked out by other workers on a job site. That costs me time. Help me avoid having to use extension cords.”
  • Safety, Make sure it can’t tip over while it’s on. Put a guard on it so no one backs into and hurts themselves. Pat a safety lock on this so there’s no change it will turn on when it gets knocked around in my tool bag.”
  • Run time. Make it so I don’t have to replenish the power source as often. Give me a way of knowing how much run time is left so I can replaced the power source before I start a job.”
  • Adjustable controls. Let me adjust the power to a level suitable for doing the job.”

Much richer stuff. In this case, using just the right word meant the difference between acquiring pedestrian insight and scratching the surface of strategically valuable wisdom. It informed a variety of decisions about the product design and package copy.

We typically find that customers in a product category,

  1. cluster into groups who share common, but not identical sets of, constructs that help them anticipate what their experiences will be, and
  2. assign varying levels of importance to each dimension (e.g., speed, maneuverability, portability, etc.) across these groups

Personal construct psychology informs approaches that complement segmentation. At times, it can provide insights that go deeper. You learn not only what customers needs exist, but also how customers distinguish new products that will help them better meet their needs.

Bottom line: If you know why and how your prospect thinks and feels (not just what they feel), you can anticipate how they’ll act in new situations. That focuses creative thinking around those few new product ideas worthy of developing further.

Whyze Group works with B2B and B2B2C Fortune 500 organizations. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in research and innovation. Inquiries: info@whyzegroup.com, (440) 785-0547.

June 28th, 2016

Breakthrough Products Break Through Customer Filters

A well designed customer experience makes them want to come back, buy again and refer others. But, how do you create an influential customer experience? Well, it starts with understanding how humans experience.

Influential guest experience

Create a guest experience that positively influences guest behavior

You have an experience just about every minute you’re awake. You’re even having an experience wearing the shoes you have on right now. And, like experiences of your shoes, the color of the ceiling and background noises, most of the experiences you have are filtered out.

How you experience is intimately connected with the way your mental machinery perceives, interprets, and evaluates the situations you’re in… and how this process influences what you do.

For years, I’ve been helping clients understand the “mental model of the customer”. This is typically different than the “mental model of the company.” In order to design influential guest experiences, you have to understand the capabilities and limitations of the human mind.

Our Brains Filter Out Most Experiences

Our nervous systems filter out more than 99% of the sensory information we’re exposed to. This allows you to pay attention to a small number of the most important things.

Your mind is continuously and automatically comparing the flood of sensory information to what it predicts it will experience.  If that information roughly matches previous patterns, the information is handled subconsciously. It doesn’t “register” as something you consciously think about.

This subconscious process allows you to act on “auto pilot”. For example, when you walk up to the front door of your house, key in hand, and the lock and door appear to behave as expected. You unlock the door and walk in. You don’t have to consciously “figure it out.”

An Influential Customer Experience Requires Surprises

If, on the other hand, that sensory information isn’t what was expected, it bubbles up to the level of conscious processing. If an element of the current situation catches you by surprise, you turn your attention to it.

But, our conscious processing has limited short term memory.  Generally, we can only consciously think about seven pieces of information.

The most influential customer experiences are designed around: 1) our short-term memory limitations and 2) people’s ability to act while on auto pilot.  Whether you like it or not, customers filter out… or at least deal with subconsciously… virtually all the details of every experience they have. They only pay attention to a small number of things.

The trick is to deliberately design an experience that maps comfortably to customers’ auto pilot for action while creating a small number of positive, meaningful surprises. This is the essence of successfully differentiated, highly influential customer experiences.

These differentiating elements are the small set of things that get the customers’ attention. They are consistent with the brand promise–a promise fulfilled by a meaningful customer experience.

For example, Holiday Valley Ski Resort is consistently rated among the top five resorts in the Eastern U.S.  Holiday Valley draws skiers who drive from Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Toronto. What makes Holiday Valley distinctive, beyond its diverse terrain and relentless commitment to snow quality, is the accessibility that permeates every aspect of the customer experience.

 

Holiday Valley

 

There is ample, high-speed lift capacity. Three updated, full-service base lodges disperse weekend crowds. There are almost never lines for lunch. There are accommodations, restaurants and attractions at the resort and in nearby Ellicottville, a five minute drive from Holiday Valley. Services are distributed in a way that seems to defy congestion. Traffic, even during high season, is always manageable.

Holiday Valley surprises customers with its ease of movement. A surprising level of accessibility is just one dimension by which you can influence customers.

If You Understand How Customers Experience, You Can Design Products that Break Through the Filters

Lets talk more about resorts for demonstration purposes.

Many “central reservations” websites provide experiences that actually feel de-centralized and fragmented to customers. The only centralizing feature is a long list of outbound links to myriad hotels, motels, B&B’s, etc. Sometimes, lodging alternatives can be sorted by number of beds and price. But, that’s pretty much it.

It’s left to the user to figure out where each accommodation is relative to the resort, what it looks like, bed sizes and configurations, whether there’s public transportation, child care, cooking facilities, restaurants, attractions nearby, a fireplace, a view, how past guests have rated their stays…and the list goes on. (I’ve talked before about new vacation planning sites that are capitalizing on this opportunity. They’re making all of this information searchable in online vacation planning tools.)

Other opportunities to positively surprise customers abound. For example, we’ve worked with a client to extend the vacation experience. The newly designed vacation experience will begin before guests ever arrive at the resort.

Another example: creating new, more meaningful social-bonding opportunities among customers. These bonds help glue guests to providers as well as each other. Vacation clubs are beginning to seize these opportunities.

You can surprise customers when they are researching, planning, booking, paying for, traveling to and traveling from a tourist area. That’s in addition to when they are physically present in your location. We’re working with forward-thinking lodging operators, restaurants, sporting goods providers and retailers to develop and exploit these opportunities. Some of these opportunities involve diverse providers collaborating across the customer experience.

To thrive, every businesses must design influential customer experiences. Influential experiences meet two requirements: First, they conform to customers’ “auto pilot” patterns of behavior so they can simply act. Second, they break from familiar patterns in ways specifically designed to deliver delightful surprises. These are two hallmarks of memorable, influential customer experiences.

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Whyze Group works with B2B and B2B2C Fortune 500 organizations. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in product innovation. Inquiries: info@whyzegroup.com, (440) 785-0547.

March 3rd, 2016

Whyze Group Illuminates GE Lighting B2B Opportunities

Image result for GE Lighting

Whyze Group recently completed a project with Cleveland-based GE Lighting to improve demand among GE’s commercial and industrial lighting customers.

The scope of the project encompassed new opportunities that are emerging in a complex ecosystem of relationships in the lighting industry. That ecosystem includes GE engineers, sales people, lighting agents, designers, architects and end users.

The outcomes of this project are expected to bolster GE Lighting’s already powerful product portfolio and brand.

Whyze Group partnered on the project with Marcus-Thomas, one of the top advertising agencies in Cleveland.

GE Lighting is a division of General Electric and is also based in Cleveland.

Whyze Group is a strategic product development and management consultancy based in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 8th, 2014

The Customer Centricity Challenge?

Customer centricity can seem to employees like an abstraction. So, what makes organizations truly customer centric?

“Centricity” implies focusing your attention on someone and responding in a relationship-nurturing way.

Does someone requiring 100% of your attention all day fit in your life? We have to divide our time among spouses, children, bosses, colleagues and friends.

So, when someone hangs a poster in the copy room that says, “We are Customer Centric,” a Dilbert cartoon flashes across my mind.

No one in a corporate office can be customer centric.

If we were, we’d get fired.

Our job descriptions tell us our roles in organizations. Customer centricity might be mentioned. But, most of our time is spent responding to colleagues, bosses and internal deadlines. Not customers, at least not directly.

Imagine a coworker in marketing or accounting who is customer centric all the time. You’ve repeatedly asked him for that report. He’s not actually ignoring you. It’s just that he’s “customer centric”, not you-centric.

How long do you think it would take for this person to be voted off your company’s island?

As consultants, we have to schedule innovation workshops with executive leaders one to three months in advance. That’s because executives’ calendars are chock full of organization centric updates, discussions and emails. That’s not a result of negligence on the part of these leaders. It just reflects the complexities of managing large organizations.

This brings me to my second point.

Customer centricity can only happen for a few, rare moments. You have to make the most of them.

We have worked with more than forty Fortune 500 companies innovating new products, services and experiences. What we have consistently found that no one in them is customer centric all the time. Numerous constituencies, such as coworkers, stockholders, vendors, partners and regulatory agencies, constantly vie for executives’ time.

At best, a handful of executives might devote a few hours each week to customers. Sure, these people are customer centric during those hours. But, for an organization to grow in a customer centric way, there usually needs to be robust, repeatable processes for integrating executive sponsorship, deep customer insight and methods for launching customer-winning ideas.

For most management teams, customer centricity is possible only in fleeting moments. For an organization to grow based on acting on a deep understanding of customers, these moments have to catapult you toward tangible business gains.

For our clients, this catapult usually follows this arc:

1.    Prioritize specific business outcomes and customer behaviors that will drive growth
2.    Learn what triggers desired customer behaviors
3.    Conceive, test and refine new experiences in a fast-pace, agile development process
4.    Show leaders results at every step and sustain executive sponsorship

We operate on several fronts on behalf of our clients: customer experience research, concept design and agile program management, for example…which brings me to my last point.

Executive sponsorship is needed to advance innovation efforts quickly in compressed time frames…otherwise, you won’t get very far.

It’s common for customer centric initiatives to be assigned to teams of mid-level functional managers. Executives take a wait and see approach. These new “customer centricity teams” can come up with some pretty heroic and creative ideas.

But, ideas die quickly.

Ideas evoke mixed reactions among executives, who filter them through their respective lenses. Without clear connections to targeted business outcomes, even the best ideas have little chance of surviving an executive team’s scrutiny.

If you’re committed to improving your customer experience to achieving real business results, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

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Whyze Group works with B2B and B2B2C Fortune 500 organizations. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in product innovation. Inquiries: info@whyzegroup.com, (440) 785-0547.

May 22nd, 2012

How to Stimulate Innovative Thinking

Completes assigned tasks. Meets deadlines…Daydreams effectively? Can companies really stimulate innovating thinking?

In the Cleveland Plain Dealer this Sunday, Mary Doria Russell writes about Imagine, a new book by Jonah Lehrer about how creativity really works.

Lehrer writes that creation isn’t a linear process. Innovators are ordinary people who encounter predictable walls. Rather than beating their heads against them, they quit. They find ways to go around them.

Everyone encounters barriers.

Successful innovators who’ve hit walls have something in common: They quit.

They didn’t quit their jobs. They gave up on unproductive lines of reasoning. “They really, truly gave up, often howling in frustration,” Lehrer says.

That’s when innovators “go forward by stepping sideways.” They quiet the linear, rule-constrained left side of the brain. Then, they unleash the conceptual, imaginative, right side. Your right brain soars with your best ideas when you’re just dozing or standing in the shower. The right brain makes unexpected connections. “Suddenly, you just know.”

Another Sunday paper described a painter who abandoned the conventional rules of the art game and built a $100 million a year business. His name is Thomas Kinkade, “painter of light.” Kinkade’s works hang in one out of 20 American homes.

The Sunday New York Times describes how Kinkade imagined a new path to success. He ignored the art critics, targeted consumers who rarely bought art and bypassed art gallery distribution channels. He chose instead to sell his sentimental, mass-produced paintings directly to consumers. He marketed his works through franchise galleries, cable television and online.

If you’re not advancing on the path you’re on, quit. Imagine another route to connecting with customers.

Successful innovation is about connecting with buyers. Kinkade’s lateral thinking coincided with reconnecting with his faith and others who shared it. He said, “People who put my paintings on their walls are putting their values on their walls: faith, family, home, a simpler way of living…they beckon you into this world that provides an alternative to your nightly news broadcast.”

Thomas Kinkade was one man who thought differently. What about when you’re one manager among a team of managers?

Getting managers to agree on a lateral route to innovation requires a special combination of skills.

After you have your eureka moment, how do you get others to follow along? Chances are that others have similar ideas. But, for reasons related to decision making processes or office politics, those ideas don’t get a fair hearing.

Others with different ideas probably feel similarly frustrated. This isn’t a deliberate or even conscious stifling of creative thought. It’s a natural outcome of diverse people working in one organization. There’s a lot of pressure on company leaders to keep everyone’s oars in the water, rowing in the same direction.

As a result, most leadership teams’ approaches to innovation could be described as “satisficing”. They suffice to satisfy key influencers within their organizations. Satisficing usually results in tweaks that customers don’t perceive or don’t care about.

Has satisficing happened in your organization?

Satisficing is a normally occurring barrier to company innovativeness. It has its own inertia. It usually needs to be acted upon by an outside force to change it.

In upcoming posts, I’ll talk about how leadership teams have acquired and applied three critical skills to overcome satisficing and get innovative in ways customers care about:

  1. inhabiting their customer’s frame of reference
  2. Identifying lateral innovation opportunities
  3. orchestrating the delivery of powerful customer experiences

What do you think? Could more companies stimulate innovative thinking? What’s holding some back?

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Whyze Group works with B2B and B2B2C Fortune 500 organizations. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in research and innovation. Inquiries: info@whyzegroup.com, (440) 785-0547.

 

 

 

 

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April 13th, 2012

National Jewelry Store Chain Innovates Gift Giving

Using a variety of discovery methods, Whyze Group identified sixteen opportunities to improve this retailer’s customer experience.

Here’s the snapshot:

A customer experience audit revealed that managers knew what SKUs were moving and at what margins, but little about what drives positive customer experiences.

Whyze Group performed in-store cue scans at our client’s and competitors’ stores. We also conducted interviews with customers, store employees and corporate staff.

Many of the most valuable insights we garnered were through metaphor analysis. Metaphor analysis enabled customers to use images and photos describing their deepest emotions about buying and giving gifts. One key finding was that men and women differ in their gift shopping and giving habits. Through metaphor analysis, our clients discovered several meaningful opportunities to enhance the gift giving experience at relatively low costs.

In addition, our client identified numerous opportunities to improve customer experiences through revamped store layouts, staff training, compensation and return policies.

We helped managers prioritize those opportunities that would most quickly and cost-effectively enhance customer experiences and repeat business.

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Whyze Group works with B2B and B2B2C Fortune 500 organizations. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in research and innovation. Inquiries: info@whyzegroup.com, (440) 785-0547.

October 7th, 2011

How Global Birth Rates and Demography Influence Product Development

The sputtering economy is, in part, a symptom of a greater problem—a tectonic shift in global demographics. This shift may change consumers’ consumption and saving behaviors for years.

These changes open up new opportunities for companies that can learn and adapt most efficiently.

Here are six things you should know…

1. Declining birthrates are eroding the economies of developed nations. Their deleterious effects will likely be with us for a long time.

Reputable demographers and economists with the WCF, tell us, “The population of the world, particularly in developing countries, is aging. The baby-boom generation is reaching retirement and will need to be supported by the generations that succeeded them, all of which have had fewer and fewer children. This means fewer and fewer workers paying into the social security, medical and welfare systems of the world. Economies will be strained and governments will slow bleed as relative production dwindles and tax revenues decrease.”

Greece

Last month’s media coverage of worker protests in Greece might leave us to believe that the cause was the Greek parliament’s reigning in liberal social welfare programs. But, Greece’s fiscal math worked before. Not anymore.

The birthrate required to sustain population equilibrium is 2.1 children per woman in Europe. Greece’s birthrate had been declining for years. As of 2004, the Greece’s birthrate was 1.3. Today, there are too few younger workers to pay for the social security of Greece’s retirees.

Europe

Similar problems plague Spain (with a birthrate of 1.3), Italy (1.3) Germany (1.4), Netherlands (1.7), Norway (1.8), France (1.9) and Ireland (2.0). In Russia, the birth rate is so low that the government is paying women to have more children. According to the WCF, Russia is expected to lose one-third of its current population by 2050.

Japan

Japan is facing similar demographic imbalances and economic challenges. According to a market update circulated by Charles Schwab last week, “The problem in Japan is that “cheap money” hasn’t stimulated demand, a liquidity trap exacerbated by an aging population that’s shifting away from consumption.”

United States

Similar challenges exist in the United States, though they are somewhat ameliorated by influx of immigrants, particularly immigrating women, who bear more children on average than women born in the U.S.

2. Deflation is a risk in developed markets.

Schwab’s update continues, “The weight of deflation is also a factor. Consumers believe that prices could be lower in the future, providing little reason to consume or invest today, so economic activity gets delayed. Lower demand results in a drop in production, job cuts and wage decreases, resulting in a reinforcing and detrimental cycle. Global economic growth is slowing, and with the threat of a double-dip recession in Europe amid fiscal austerity, there’s increased potential for deflation, not inflation, for most of the developed world.”

3. As a result, consumers say they are reverting to post-World War II spending and savings patterns.

Recent McKinsey&Company research shows that 90% of U.S. consumers 36 to 65 years old with incomes of $25K to $100K say they are reducing spending. The personal savings rate, which was zero in 2008, climbed to nearly 6% of disposable income in 2009, approaching the 9% savings rate of the post-World War II era.

Less than half of surveyed U.S. consumers believe the stock market will outpace inflation over the next 30 years. Eighty-five percent of consumers ages 36 to 45 believe that it won’t.

Unlike recent business cycles, this downturn appears to be leveling off at range of economic activity that will remain with us for the long haul. Consumers and business leaders looking for help from financial services institutions and governments are finding them bereft of solutions.

4. The future favors companies that efficiently learn and adapt more efficiently in response to customers’ new savings and spending habits.

Learning and adapting sound simple. However, most companies fail to integrate the components of learning–data collection, analysis, knowledge sharing–with the components of adapting–planning and managing change.

5. Change management skills are required to get organizations to adapt more quickly, but change management is a blind spot for most CMOs.

This is where there is plenty of opportunity for improvement.

“CEOs and CMOs agree that the formula for success involves leading innovation, improving marketing’s alignment with the rest of the organization, business strategy and marketing execution. Yet, both CEOs and CMOs agree that marketing is not as effective as it can be,” according to a report by executive recruiting firm, Spencer-Stuart.

6. As we reported in our 2009 white paper, “Bridging the Research-Innovation Gap,” (downloadable from our home page) most companies’ learning and adapting processes are quaint and inefficient.

Companies are attempting to learn and adapt via assembly-line management practices conceived at the turn of the last century. Potentially valuable customer insights are thrown over marketing’s silo wall to next-in-line executives who either don’t understand them, don’t believe them, don’t remember them or are unwilling to use them.

Hundreds of executives and marketing researchers have read our white paper and support our conclusions, which specify 11 ways to bridge the research-innovation gap. The U.S. Department of Commerce cites our paper as recommended reading for U.S. business leaders.

With businesses and consumers becoming more budget and value consciousness, demand will likely continue to shift toward companies that operate more efficiently.

That applies to innovating more efficiently, too.

Over the last ten years, Whyze Group has helped dozens of top companies innovate more efficiently. We integrate customer experience research, design and change management to enhance the innovativeness and performance of companies with which we work.

  • Customer experience research surfaces the influences of someone’s experiences, memories, goals, mental models, perceptions and emotions on their behaviors around brands and products. This understanding of ‘the person’, who has a life beyond the limiting role of ‘customer’, helps us more accurately anticipate how people are going to respond to specific new product and service ideas.
  • Customer experience design uses a workshop approach to designing advertisements, sales processes, products and services, packages and post-purchase events that deliver experiences  customers deem worthy of rewarding with their loyalty and referrals.
  • Change management is applied in creating leadership alignment around what leaders believe and need to learn about the customer experience. Change management is integral in implementing organizational changes needed to deliver the intended customer experience.

 

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Whyze Group works with B2B and B2B2C Fortune 500 organizations. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in research and innovation. Inquiries: info@whyzegroup.com, (440) 785-0547.

 

July 8th, 2010

New Report Raises Bar for Innovation in U.S. Firms

Cleveland, Ohio (PRWEB) June 22, 2009 — The U.S. economy may be under-performing by hundreds of billions of dollars annually due to companies that squander customer information, botch innovation and miss global market opportunities, according to a report published by Whyze Group.

The report, titled Bridging the Research-Innovation Gap, describes eleven factors that determine executives’ effectiveness in leading their companies from the mountains of customer information they collect to innovation pay dirt. It provides ways for managers at all levels to diagnose innovation challenges and implement solutions.

The report comes in the midst of an economic crisis that has raised public skepticism of many company executives. U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for trillions of dollars in bailouts to companies that, among other faults, have failed to innovate products customers want. GM’s former CEO, Rick Wagoner, was ousted by an Obama administration calling for more accountability.

Whyze Group president, Jason M. Sherman, says, “This report gives U.S. managers, investors and employees the tools to recognize barriers to innovation in organizations and respond accordingly.”

Sherman adds, “It’s in our collective interest to assure that everyone who depends on the continued prosperity of the United States participate in making us more innovative and competitive. This report is a primer for those who will make that happen.”

‘Bridging the Research-Innovation Gap’ is the culmination of eight years of analysis of Fortune 500 companies. Whyze Group audited hundreds of strategy documents and conducted thousands of interviews with executives, employees and customers. The report integrates data from the U.S. Commerce Department and observations from thought leaders at top business schools.

The report includes an analysis of how management teams waste billions of dollars on market research each year. Companies use only half of the customer information they acquire. Some customer information is misapplied.

As a result, there is little association between how much companies spend on research and their relative financial performance. Company performance is influenced more by how effectively managers apply what they learn.

‘Bridging the Research-Innovation Gap’ identifies eleven factors that determine how effectively managers apply what they learn. One example is the degree to which executives carve out fiefdoms to the detriment of their organizations. In some companies, managers try to manipulate information for their own personal gain. In others, executives openly share information and work in ways that are more aligned with the interests of customers, employees and shareholders.

Other factors that determine how companies apply what they learn are management teams’ abilities to
–   Correctly identify their own blind spots
–   Stimulate innovation among employees
–   Identify and champion the most promising ideas

The report describes seven additional factors that determine companies’ abilities to bridge the research-innovation gap. Descriptions of each factor are followed by strategies executives can use to make their companies more innovative.

Jason M. Sherman is president of Cleveland-based, Whyze Group. Whyze Group provides qualitative, customer- and user-experience research and innovation workshops to Global 2000 clients. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in research and innovation.

Connect with Jason on Linkedin.

Follow @JasonMSherman on Twitter.

Receive alerts by email.

Email Jason here.

Jason direct: (440) 785-0547.

June 22nd, 2009

Company Innovates Next Generation of Hand Tools

Managers at a leading hand tool manufacturer wanted to innovate the company’s next generation of hand tools. Previous research pointed toward the existence of diverging needs among professional builders and DIYs.  

There was little agreement among managers in marketing, product development, manufacturing and finance about which segment the company should focus on or kinds of product improvements that would increase sales and profits. Whyze Group facilitated the team through a customer experience management audit. The team identified several critical gaps in their knowledge, which Whyze Group filled. 

Over the next six months, Whyze Group worked with managers to prioritize segments, develop ideas, refine prototypes and prepare for production and rollout.  We conducted customer interviews that identified innovative product features that built on buyers’ mental models about usability, durability and safety.  

Whyze Group helped the team find the optimal combination of new product features with a customer experience survey that included discrete choice analysis. While finding the most desirable product features was a goal, we also wanted to minimize cannibalization of our client’s existing products. Working closely with our client, we found a new product configuration that increased buyer preference for our client’s product portfolio by 22%.  

October 7th, 2008

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