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).

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?