In a fast pace competitive environment where change is the only real constant, how does a business build and maintain a competitive edge? How does it consistently win customers and beat the competition?
The simple answer is to build the capacity and processes to develop and launch meaningfully differentiated products faster and better than the competition.
Pretty obvious – of course! But how does a CEO know if his marketing and development team is focusing on the “right” opportunity?
And how does he manage the uncertainty and risk associated with innovation and new product development?
And how can he justify, much let alone, allocate resources to developing speculative new products, when his current resources are already over taxed on executing the existing core business?
All good questions, requiring serious strategic thinking (where to play, how to win), clarity (what victory looks like) and commitment to realizing your vision (winning customers by getting their important jobs done perfectly).
Here are some important factors to consider when reformulating your business strategy and innovation playbooks:
Commit to innovation and new product development as a key strategic initiative
Without formally setting innovation and new product development as strategic imperative, chances are it will become a second or third order priority. If you want to be competitive over the long haul, not committing to innovation and new product development would be a huge mistake.
The rules of the game (your market landscape) are constantly changing. Not only are your “known” competitors trying to eat your lunch, there are new competitors from outside your industry, with innovations and disruptive business models looking to gun you down.
Simply put: what worked in the past, will not suffice in the future. While you worked hard to build customer loyalty with your current products and service, better solutions to solve customer problems will always emerge. This is what makes competition a great benefit for customers. But competition is a real vulnerability for companies who don’t evolve with the times.
The fact of the matter is that customers will always seek the best solutions to get their important jobs done. Therefore, if you want to keep and attract new customers, you need to be the most innovative player on the playing field.
Your innovation and product development strategy must include
1 year, 3 year and 5 year objectives and definition of what victory looks like. Yes the future in hard to predict, but without a clear and committed direction, you are likely to waste resources on chasing marginal business opportunities versus creating true breakthrough new products and business models.
A strategy and innovation game plan built on learning loops. Because we live and operate in an environment of complex adaptive systems, the only certainty is our environment will keep changing. New disruptive technologies, new competitors coming out of nowhere, new rules of the game, and new customer attitudes and behaviors.
A strategic product and capability portfolio to balance growth and risk. Think of this as your investment portfolio that you must properly fund if you expect it to yield results in the future. You need short-term and long-term investments in new products, people, skills, technologies and processes. See “How Much Risk Is In Your New Product Development Portfolio?”
Fall in love with your customer’s problems, not your solutions.
Abandon your product/solutions lens and adopt the jobs-to-be-done market lens to really understand the customers’ problem set.
Use that knowledge to create true customer value and “insanely great” products that help customers get their important jobs done perfectly, from start to finish. The whole user experience, no details are too small.
If you stick to your product oriented lens, you will eventually become obsolete because the new breed of competitors don’t play by your rules, they play by a new set of rules designed to win over your customers.
Don’t let this happen! Focus on the important jobs and related jobs your customers want to get done, and help them get it done perfectly.
Combing the jobs-to-be-done innovation framework with a flexible and adaptive development process based on learning loops, will provide your team an innovation game plan to successfully manage the uncertainty and risk associated with launching innovate new products. Your odds of success will increase dramatically.
Final thought: No Problem – No Profit.
No matter how good your ideas and technologies are, if they don’t help people get important jobs done better than competing alternatives, then you will lose the game of winning customers and beating the competition.
The jobs-to-be-done innovation framework , the design-thinkers triad of success and the business model canvas are essential tools that all companies can use to improve their odds of success of launching breakthrough new products.
As the sergeant from the old Hill’s Street Blues TV series used to say:
“To it to them (the competition) before they do it to you.”
Go out there and compete to win by falling in love with your customer’s problems and out innovating the competition!