How can product managers help their organizations innovate in a way that will appeal to customers? Co-create with your customers. It is frequent advice, but how do you really accomplish it? To find out, I discussed the topic with the author of Innovation Wars: Driving Successful Corporate Innovation Programs. It’s an authoritative guidebook for innovators and product managers that includes several tools for taking the guesswork out of creating and launching successful products.
The author and the person I interviewed is Scott Bale, a technology & innovation evangelist. Scott has been a serial entrepreneur, speaker at TEDx, and now runs Innovation Labs Asia, based in Singapore. In our discussion, Scott shares a model for helping organizations be more innovative that consists of 4 C’s:
- Culture development
- Capability, and
Some highlights from the questions we discussed are next and the link to the audio interview follows at the end.
How can you get your customers to innovate for you?
Innovation is a very creative process. The reason to co-create with customers is to ensure you are building products that customers need and want. There are many examples of companies that have done this but that are not well-known for it, including Apple, Tesla, and Facebook. Also, look at the related problems or jobs customers need to solve. For example, when someone gets a mortgage, they likely will be moving and moving is painful. A bank that provided a mortgage that also helped you move would create a competitive advantage.
How can we start co-creating?
I use a framework inspired from the world of Design Thinking that I call the 4 C model: Context, Culture development, Capability, and Collaboration. Co-creating is part of Capability. Start with what facts you know about your customer. Then identify their aspirations and goals – the job they need done. Knowing that, identify the obstacle or challenge in achieving the goal. Uncover what they have already tried to solve the problem and what their existing behaviors are. These are the early adopters who want to solve the problem but have not found a satisfactory solution yet and represents a persona to find early adopters.
Breakdown the 4 C model for us.
The first C is context – how do you structure yourself and create an environment for innovation. Next is Culture development, which is developing a culture of curiosity, experimentation, and the role of failure. Capability is the third C. This involves quantifying the value of an idea and the elements we discussed previously. Lean Startup practices can be used here. The final C is Collaboration – look for partners and others in the supply chain of a product to add value.
What else do we need to know?
We need to apply Assumption Exploration. This is where hypotheses are created and tested to better understand the customer problem. You need to examine what you are assuming about the customer problem and solution. Focus first on the assumptions with the deepest impact and risk and design an experiment to test these assumptions. Steve Blank’s work to test hypotheses is the basis of this exploration. Interviews with people representing the persona you created can be used to test hypotheses. If an assumption is wrong, refocus the persona or the problem to solve and test again. When conducting the assumption tests, look for patterns that invalidate or validate an assumption.
Listen to the interview with Scott Bales on the Everyday Innovator Podcast.
image credit: depositphotos.com
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Chad McAllister, PhD is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow @ChadMcAllister