Re-igniting Innovation: Tactics for Achieving Breakthroughs in Competitiveness and Customer Satisfaction

In the age of globalization and the Web, products and services evolve from being unique to becoming a commodity in a very short period of time. This puts tremendous pressure on the organization to continually innovate in order to maintain relevance, competitiveness, and margin.

Businesses typically rely on technology and product innovation to be competitive. Now we’re seeing companies strive for innovation in business processes, too, as a way to get closer to the customer, to create a cost advantage, or to create nimbleness.

Tip One – Look Beyond the Product
Therefore the first tip for CEOs wanting to re-ignite innovation in their company is to look beyond the product itself. Look at the internal processes that create and build the product or service. Then look at the customer-facing processes of your organization. Would a spark of creativity here ignite effective two-way communications with your customers and channel partners that create a competitive advantage?

Tip Two –Customer-Centric Product Management
Systematically integrate customer input into your R&D for products and services. There are several ways to accomplish this, but be aware that simply asking customers what features they want can lead you to miss big market opportunities.

Your company should have a strong Product Management or Product Marketing function responsible for defining market requirements, identifying industry trends, and writing the go-to-market plan. This function is also responsible for communicating market requirements to those responsible for engineering, building and delivering the product/service. Depending on the size of your company the Product Management role might be an entire department, one dedicated individual, or an interim manager brought in for a period of time to pull together the product plan and go-to-market plan.

The Product Manager function can be greatly aided by quality input from Marketing, Sales and Customer Service – the individuals who have the most customer contact.
At least once a year, develop a survey and ask your current, prospective and past customers how they feel about your product or service; and have a written plan to address where you need to improve and capitalize on what you are doing right.

The best way to innovate is to follow a process known as “job-to-be-done”. Rather than ask customers what features they want. You ask them what job they want done. In their response you will see the issues they face in their job and the problems they are trying to solve. With a clear definition of several jobs to be done, your R&D team can think outside the box about what it would take to do the job for the customer. This will lead to innovation, as opposed to incremental improvement.

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