Which comes first, new products or new markets? In my last blog I did a primer on Cim for New Products. While that is the deliverable, there is a great deal of research that says that the place to start is with new market innovations vs. new products. In this article, I’ll provide some background from the marketing literature over the last 50 years and how CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint can be leveraged to tap your workforce to get vivid User Stories that fuel new market innovations and drive new product innovation.
Ted Levitt is acknowledged to have started the “re-invention” of modern marketing/product management with his paper called Marketing Myopia in 1960 (Harvard business Review). The premise was that existing marketing was based upon data which really didn’t provide you with the information to think of and develop new products and effective marketing. Our way of thinking was too narrow, too product centric, too data centric. A famous line by Mr. Levitt was “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” It is not about the product; it is about the customer and what they want.
This basic idea has been explored and expanded over the last 50 years. In the high-tech industry, Geoffrey Moore in his classic Crossing the Chasm (1991) applied this approach to a new theory of high-tech market development. In it, he talks about target-customer scenarios vs. classic demographic market segmentation. Clayton Christenson takes it further in his popular book Innovator’s Solution (2003) to talk about circumstance based marketing as the core for disruptive new product innovation.
In effect, all three authors are saying that new products and markets don’t get discovered by reviewing quantitative data or doing data-oriented segmentation. The secret is by qualitatively learning what job a user would “hire” a product to do for them. This is what a market really is, those people that would all hire your product to do x for them. The results are often surprising, and, the basis for extreme innovation.
A great number of marketers will tell you that they understand and agree with this theory. Some practice it. It is hard. It’s practice takes time: work to collect the qualitative information and to evaluate and understand the circumstances, and then, the time to figure out the products. Mr. Christensen even goes as far as to say the following:
“corporate IT systems and the CIO’s who administer them figure among the most important contributors to failure in innovation.”
Wow! In a nutshell, he states that this is because IT is the owner of the data and usually good at serving it up, but, fail to have systems to serve the needs of this other type of approach to market/product innovation. But, these days we have a whole new set of tools, like CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint, and we have the potential to use them differently. Sometimes simple applications can really fuel powerful innovation.
A new start – Cim for User Stories
So, you are in marketing/product management and are a believer in the theory of these authors. How can you apply it? Let’s try a different approach leveraging Cim on SharePoint.
Imagine that you do not go out and ask your 5,000 employees to give you their ideas for new products. Instead you set up a User Story campaign. You ask them to write up stories from actual customers about how they are using your product. You give them 30 days. Using Cim you make it very easy for your salespeople, customer service reps and any customer facing people to tell a story. They can read each others stories. They can rate them, comment on them, and cross-reference them. You can offer rewards and incentives. You’ll get stories, and, they will amaze you. Then, you start to categorize them, evaluate them, explore them.
You can then build “Personas” around the characters in the stories. You can go out and present the Personas to your people and have them vett them and the stories as to which jobs they are doing are most valuable. Now, you are really leveraging your people and engaging them.
Next, you can go back out and ask your workforce to write up stories of what those same customers are doing without your product. How do your customers try and get things done? Your rep could ask someone “What task do you do during the day that is most cumbersome, or time consuming?” You can also ask your people to write stories about fictional characters and what these people might want to do in a given day. You also can write stories and vett them through the same Cim community with others. The new market innovation process is really an iterative process that expands and develops on the stories.
You are now collecting wonderfully valuable qualitative stories. Some of real people and some fictional. You are getting the feedback from your broad workforce. You may even make them public to customers and ask them to actually tell you which stories apply to them.
You are stopping short of asking your people to tell you directly their product idea – it starts to become implicit in the stories. You first want to understand the job people may want to get done. Then, you begin to frame it into the product that would address the circumstance.
Going there and Getting There
All of these steps, are built on small focused campaigns. They build and evolve your market approaches. They are part of a program that uses qualitative information to fuel circumstance-based innovation. Your employees learn to engage, to share stories, to know what questions to ask and what to look for. They become engaged in the process. You get a volume of information that you never would have the time or budget to get. It is unfiltered and provided by non-experts that don’t live inside the same box as professionals. This process will then feed into and/or complement your New Product activities.
Cim is a great solution to enable you to tap into your workforce to add User Stories to your mix. It is easy to create new campaigns. It is easy for users to contribute with and engage with others. And, it provides you with what you need to manage the back-end work of reviewing, categorizing, prioritizing, approving, and, rolling back out new campaigns to continue your process. It gives you a platform to iteratively engage with your internal workforce and external communities.
Its been 50 years since Mr. Levitt’s original article – we now have the tools to work with unstructured information, engage with others and execute on the theory. In many of our customers, it was IT that pushed to bring SharePoint into the organization. In my opinion, they are off the hook Mr. Christensen. Now, it is up to those of us that want to leverage solutions like Cim on top of this new platform to drive innovation.