Consider an important—if awkward—question to ask new-product project teams.

If any process in your company should be customer-driven, it should be the one developing products for customers, right? So try this at your next review: Ask team members how many hours they spent talking to customers… and how many hours working internally. You may be surprised at how little time was spent understanding customer needs.

More in article, Should Your Stage-Gate® Get a No-Go?

Innovators should worry about errors of omission as much as errors of commission.

When you validate your new product concept with customers, they may tell you if it’s a dud. Great… you’ve avoided the error of commission. But what about the error of omission? If you first enter the customer’s world with B2B divergent interviews, you might learn of unexpected needs that lead to a blockbuster.

More in white paper, Lean Startup for B2B (page 9).

Don’t overlook the staggering impact of directly engaging customers in your innovation.

Innovating companies that directly engage their customers have operating income growth rates three times higher than those that do not.  When you see a gulf of 3X, it should scream “opportunity!” Gaining customer insight in an engaging manner may be commonplace in the future, but today it’s a competitive advantage. Will you seize it?

More in article, Why Maximizing Shareholder Value is a Flawed Goal (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth).

Your unwillingness to walk away from a losing project degrades your overall ability to win.

Consider two new-product success modes. In Success Mode A you launch a well-protected, premium-priced product. In Success Mode B, you thoroughly search the market segment, but find no unmet needs you can address. So you walk. May not sound heroic, but it’s the only way to ensure enough resources for more Success Mode A.

More in article, Are You Maximizing Your Profits?

Unlike other areas of business, surprises are welcome when you’re developing new products.

Surprises in quality or cost control are unpleasant. But innovation relies on surprises. Without “non-obviousness,” an invention cannot even be patented. When a previously-hidden customer outcome becomes known, the discovering supplier has the luxury of seeking solutions in a competition-free environment.

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 10).

All new products are not created equal. You can benefit greatly by studying winners vs. losers.

Some products deliver enormous profits for decades, carrying whole businesses and careers on their sturdy shoulders. And then there are the tired, the poor, the huddled masses of wretched new products you wish were on your competitors’ teeming shores. You’ll find the blockbusters always satisfy six conditions. (See link below for details.)

More in article, Are You Maximizing Your Profits?

There are many ways to improve product development that are well-tested and proven to fail.

One is throwing more money at R&D in a Soviet-style arms race. Another is exhorting the troops to do better. An all-time favorite is asking tough project-review questions… but not training teams in the skills needed to find the answers. What if all your teams had the highest possible skills in understanding customer needs? Might this work better?

More in article, Do You Really Interview Customers?

Validating hypotheses with customers distorts your entire new product development process.

Confirmation bias is the “tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses, regardless of whether the information is true.” It’s what happens when you take your lovely new-product hypotheses to customers. This systematically distorts data on customer needs… and that can’t be good for innovation, right?

More in article, Give your Hypothesis the “Silent Treatment” (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth).

The greatest danger in customer interviews is hearing what you want to hear.

Your new product development should start where it ends: with the customer. When you take your “pride and joy” hypothesis to customers and ask their opinion, two bad things can happen: 1) They tell you what they think you want to hear. 2) You hear what you want to hear. Start by uncovering their needs, not testing your pre-conceived notions.

More in article, Give your Hypothesis the “Silent Treatment (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth).

Why take a “leap of faith” when you could take a leap of confidence—more quickly and cheaply?

Lean Startup methodology refers to “Leap of Faith Assumptions,” and recommends testing assumptions with customers at the first opportunity. For B2B, this “first opportunity” to learn comes before a prototype is created… through VOC interviews to mine the foresight of knowledgeable customers. Don’t miss this B2B adjustment to Lean Startup.

Read more in this white paper, Lean Startup for B2B (page 6).