- On June 15, 2016
- In Customer Needs, Innovation
- By Lance Bettencourt
One of my unmet needs as a bowler is the difficulty of practicing various spare shots. Strikes are nice, but consistency in picking up spares is what separates an okay bowler from a good bowler. As such, I’d like to be able to practice picking up ten pins and seven pins and one-two pin combinations, and so on.
If a company like Brunswick recognized this possibility, they might do what a lot of companies do at this point, and that is to test consumer response to possible ways of meeting the need. For example, they might propose a concept like an app that could interface with a software system that controls pin placement. Brunswick might like the idea of an app for various reasons.
But there’s a problem inherent in asking consumers to rate an idea – even if it is connected to a clear benefit – without first knowing if the need itself is unmet from a consumer perspective. It can lead to misleading information that can lead to poor decision-making. And this is precisely what I have seen all-too-often in practice.
For example, I once worked with a company that makes nutritional products for children. As they were exploring options for new products, they had a series of ideas prioritized by consumers. With an appreciation for the truth that consumers ultimately want to get one or more jobs done, the firm bundled solution possibilities and jobs in the ideas that were rated.
One ‘bundle’, for example, asked consumers to indicate their interest in a milk mix enhanced with “Omega 3 DHA to stimulate brain power” and “antioxidant vitamins to support toddler immunity.” As I look at these descriptions, I can envision a variety of reasons why I might not like the idea even if I consider the jobs of simulating brain power and supporting immunity in my toddler to be unmet today.
I might not know what DHA is, for example. Sounds a bit scary to be honest. I might be concerned that the mix would be difficult to dissolve. I might think that vitamins would leave a bad taste and my toddler wouldn’t like it. And on the list may go.
So here’s the problem, the jobs bundled with the idea might be worthy of innovation. However, by having the jobs rated at the same time as the ideas, this insight is lost. The company gets back results that indicate that the idea has not been well received by consumers. Was it that the jobs weren’t important and unsatisfied? Was it that the idea for satisfying the jobs was problematic? The company can’t know.
More recently, my wife completed a survey for a company that wanted to know her interest in an app concept that would monitor her driving in order to offer safe driving discounts and rewards.
Although my wife shared with me how she liked the benefit, she was not keen on the idea itself because she didn’t want to have to use a bunch of minutes and battery to have her phone constantly on while driving. Whether or not this would have actually been the case is beside the point.
The point is that by getting a prioritization that combined a proposed benefit with a proposed solution, this company got the feedback that the idea was not attractive. However, they missed out on the insight that the benefit was attractive, just not with the baggage of the solution that was proposed.
There is a place for concept and idea prioritization – even with consumers – but it must come after the needs themselves are prioritized. That’s the only way to ensure that resources are properly allocated to satisfy the needs that are the highest priority to consumers.
To tie back to my bowling illustration, here’s the key takeaway. To get innovation right, a company must:
Prioritize Ideas & Needs Separately – the PINS model of innovation success if you will!