Take these steps to avoid doom:
- Use your own products. At Title 9 Sports, a California-based catalog company that sells women’s athletic gear, all the employees wear their products all the time. On the flip side, Leslie Moeller, a Booz Allen consultant in Cleveland, once had a client who didn’t like his division’s products. When they held product tastings, he wouldn’t taste them. Doomed.
- Seek out unhappy customers. Sure, it’s gratifying to hear nice things about what your organization produces, but that doesn’t help you one bit. Leaders use customers who find flaws or want the product oriented a different way to drive innovation.
- Listen to the broader market. When you’re a leader, it’s tempting to overlook market opportunities and just concentrate on creating exciting new products. You introduce lots of new things and “see what sticks.” That’s risky ... and expensive.
- Go where the customers are. Talking with customers and developing a product in one area doesn’t mean it will fly in another.
- Learn why. The best innovators understand not only how customers behave but the reasons for their behavior. That’s the difference between understanding existing needs and the huge potential of not-yet-realized desires.