Time To Ditch Brainstorming And Embrace Customer-Centric Innovation

by | Innovation, Customer Satisfaction

For too long, typical corporate innovation has been driven by clever ideas and flashy features, often with little regard for the actual needs and desires of customers. This traditional “solution-centric” approach has resulted in countless failed products, wasted resources, and frustrated customers. It’s time for a paradigm shift – a move towards outcome-driven innovation (ODI).

The Flaws Of Idea-Generated Innovation

Historically, innovation has been viewed through two distinct lenses: the electrifying flash of individual genius that can occasionally propel a company to new heights, or idea-gathering frenzies that throw everything against the wall hoping something sticks. However, both approaches are fraught with inherent challenges.

Conceiving an innovative concept, regardless of its brilliance, is inherently speculative and full of potential pitfalls. While market trends, consumer needs, and technological advancements may serve as inspiration, they offer no guarantee of success. The littered landscape of failed innovations stands as a stark testament to the fickle, unpredictable nature of relying solely on ideas.

What Is Outcome-Driven Innovation?

Enter Outcome-driven innovation (ODI), a methodology that flips the script by starting with the end result—the desired outcomes—and works backward to find the solutions. Developed by Tony Ulwick, ODI centers around understanding customer needs and preferences on a granular level.

ODI is a strategy and innovation process that focuses on creating products and services that deliver specific, measurable outcomes for customers. It’s not about coming up with the next big idea, but rather about identifying the unmet needs and desires of customers and then developing solutions that address those needs directly.

ODI is built upon the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework (further popularized by Clayton Christianson), which posits that customers don’t actually buy products, they “hire” them to get a specific job done. This job could be anything from making dinner to getting to work on time. By focusing on the job, rather than the product, ODI ensures that innovation efforts are aligned with what customers truly value.

Why ODI Outperforms Idea-Generated Innovation

ODI offers several key advantages over traditional innovation approaches:

  • Customer-Centricity: ODI places the customer at the heart of the innovation process. By studying their behaviors, pain points, and goals, businesses can develop solutions that align precisely with what customers want. This customer-centric approach reduces the guesswork involved in ideation and ensures a higher likelihood of success upon implementation.
  • Risk Mitigation: Traditional idea-generated innovation often involves significant upfront investment without a clear understanding of market demand. ODI, on the other hand, systematically identifies and prioritizes customer needs, allowing businesses to allocate resources more efficiently and mitigate risks associated with unproven concepts.
  • Quantifiable Metrics: ODI introduces a metric-driven approach to innovation, enabling organizations to measure success objectively. By defining and quantifying desired outcomes, businesses can track their progress, adjust strategies in real-time, and maintain a laser focus on what truly matters to their customers.
  • Long-Term Sustainability: ODI promotes sustainable innovation by fostering a continuous feedback loop with customers. As market dynamics evolve, businesses can adapt and refine their offerings to stay relevant. This iterative process ensures that companies don’t merely chase trends but build lasting value through a deep understanding of their customers’ evolving needs.
  • Increased Success Rate with Reduced Costs: ODI has been shown to have a 5x higher success rate than traditional innovation methods. This is because it focuses on creating solutions that address real customer needs, rather than simply pushing out new products. And by focusing on outcomes, ODI helps companies avoid wasting resources on developing products that no one wants.

Examples of Outcome-Driven Innovation

Zoom: Among remote workers in the US, videoconferencing software Zoom has emerged as the most-used collaboration tool. The job-to-be-done is helping remote workers manage and engage with colleagues without in-person interaction, and Zoom has proven to be an effective means of doing so.

Zelle and Venmo: The use of cash has been in decline and people are increasingly opting for digital payment methods. As the job of making payments has become more digital, these firms have embraced the smartphone over the wallet in designing offerings in line with consumer behavior.

DoorDash:  Third-party food delivery services have become increasingly popular as more people opt for off-premises over in-person dining. DoorDash is the largest meal delivery platform, offering users an answer to the job of conveniently ordering food without leaving their homes or making a phone call, and receiving it via contactless delivery.

Implementing Outcome-Driven Innovation

There are five key steps to implementing ODI:

  1. Customer Research and Segmentation: This involves understanding the specific job that your customers are trying to get done and the context in which they are trying to do it. Begin by conducting thorough customer research to identify distinct segments and their specific needs. Utilize surveys, interviews, and data analytics to gather insights that inform the outcomes your customers desire.
  2. Job Mapping: Develop detailed “jobs to be done” maps, outlining the steps customers take to achieve their desired outcomes. This process helps uncover opportunities for innovation and ensures a comprehensive understanding of the customer journey, as well as the specific outcomes that customers are trying to achieve when they hire your product or service.
  3. Outcome Prioritization: Prioritize outcomes based on customer preferences and needs. Not all outcomes are equal, and understanding which ones matter most to your target audience will guide your innovation efforts more effectively. This also involves measuring how well existing solutions are meeting the desired outcomes of your customers and quantifying which outcomes are unmet.
  4. Rapid Prototyping and Testing: Unlike traditional approaches that invest heavily in ideas upfront, ODI encourages rapid prototyping and testing. Develop minimum viable products (MVPs) to gather real-world feedback quickly, allowing for adjustments before committing to large-scale development. Evaluate potential solutions based on their ability to deliver the desired outcomes.
  5. Iterative Improvement: Embrace an iterative approach to innovation. Continuously refine your products and services based on customer feedback, evolving market conditions, and emerging trends. Track the performance of your solutions and make adjustments as needed to ensure that they are delivering the desired outcomes. This ongoing process of improvement is key to maintaining a competitive edge in dynamic industries.

Get Started

It’s time for organizations to reevaluate their innovation strategies and embrace a methodology that doesn’t just generate ideas but delivers tangible, customer-approved results.

By focusing on creating solutions that deliver specific, measurable outcomes for customers, companies can ensure that they are innovating in a way that is truly valuable and impactful.

Outcome-driven innovation is a powerful approach that can help companies expedite and increase their chances of success, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction.

As businesses transition from the speculative world of idea-generated concepts to the results-driven realm of ODI, they position themselves not only to survive but to thrive in an era where the customer’s voice is louder than ever. By focusing on outcomes, mitigating risks, and fostering long-term sustainability, ODI represents the next frontier in the evolution of business and technology.

View original post at Forbes.com, where David Henkin is a contributing writer


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David G. Henkin

I serve as an advisor to corporate and nonprofit leaders and their organizations in the areas of innovation, work design, business and technology, teams, and leadership. An expert in designing and implementing innovative business strategies and solutions improving performance, profitable possibilities, and developing organizational capabilities through a collaborative-growth approach. My most recent book is Fixing Work: A Tale about How to Design Jobs Employees Love. My work experience includes Chief Innovation Officer at Vertex (VERX), also serving as Executive Vice President. In addition, launching and leading their public cloud business and Managed Services and Outsourcing practice. I was a board member at Wheelhouse Analytics from startup through successful strategic acquisition, served as Chief Operating Officer at Coates Analytics also from startup through successful strategic acquisition. Prior to that I was a Corporate Officer and Principal at Vanguard.