There’s no need to fear the “suicide quadrant”.

This is what product developers call the Ansoff Matrix quadrant where you pursue an unfamiliar market with unfamiliar technology. A great place to kill your career. But you can enter it with confidence when you apply new methods for de-risking transformational projects… moving from uncertainty to certainty to defuse potential “landmines.”

More in article, How to Thrive in the “Suicide Quadrant (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

Are your “P” and “PC” out of balance?

Decades ago, Stephen Covey explained we need to balance “P” (production) against “PC” (production capability). Today many companies just focus on this year’s results (P), without building the capabilities needed for future growth (PC). Don’t just hit the reset button and start over again every year. Instead, build the future you want.

More in article, Better get used to mediocre growth (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

So many ways to fail. Do you have a favorite?

In the front end of innovation, though, there are just two ways to fail. An error omission is failing to uncover an unarticulated customer need. An error of commission is choosing the wrong customer need to work on. Funny thing about errors of omission: No one knows you erred… until a competitor launches a blockbuster product.

More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs (page 5).

Stage-and-gate processes are necessary, but not sufficient.

A new product development process with stages and gates provides helpful discipline. But most suffer from two limitations: 1) Internal focus… talking to ourselves instead of customers. 2) Analytical thinking… promoting a checklist mentality. You also need discovery thinking, with a focus on learning. Unlike analytical thinking, this is fragile and must be nurtured.

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

How is the modern B2B innovator like a weather forecaster?

In both cases models are used to predict future behavior. Barometric pressure and other data are the “raw material” for weather models. For you, it’s quantitatively measuring key customer outcomes in the front-end of innovation. Your model lets you replicate the customer experience… so you can know with confidence how they’ll react to any of your product designs.

More in article, How to model customer needs (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

The most dangerous stage-and-gate conversations are the ones you don’t have.

For example, do you have a serious discussion about customers’ next best alternatives? What do we know about these alternatives, how do we know this to be true, how do customers measure their satisfaction, and how is our new product design stacking up? Without such insight, you’ll have to guess at your new-product pricing.

More in article, Four Steps Needed for New Product Differentiation (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

Got a new product hypothesis? Give it the “silent treatment” during customer interviews.

I love it when our clients have cool technology and clever ideas. But don’t mention these to customers during VOC interviews. From the customer’s perspective, the interview should look exactly the same whether or not you’ve got a great hypothesis. Give your hypothesis the silent treatment for now. Simply listen to the customer.

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

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).