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Innovation Newsletter
with Tony Ulwick

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Innovation is Not a Game of Chance


Innovation is Not a Game of Chance

Imagine this scenario.

You’re a product leader tasked with achieving ambitious growth targets for your company. 

Despite your best efforts, you’ve been struggling to meet these goals. You and your team have been constantly iterating and updating your product, hoping to strike gold and find that elusive feature or improvement that will take your product to the next level.

But despite all the late nights and endless rounds of testing, your product just isn’t gaining the traction you need. Sales are stagnant, and customer feedback is lukewarm at best. You’re starting to feel like you’re spinning your wheels, pouring time and resources into a product that isn’t resonating with your target market.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Many product leaders find themselves in this same situation, struggling to achieve growth despite their best efforts. The problem is that the traditional approach to innovation – one that relies on constant iteration and a “fail fast” mentality – is often more of a guessing game than a science.

Unlock predictable growth with a structured innovation process.

Adopting a well-defined, structured innovation process is the key to making innovation more predictable. Without such a process, companies will continue to rely on guesswork and intuition, leading to high failure rates and wasted resources.

On the other hand, a structured innovation process provides a clear roadmap for uncovering customer needs, identifying growth opportunities, and creating products and services that deliver real value.

An effective innovation process typically consists of five key steps:

  1. Define the market around the job-to-be-done: This involves understanding the underlying “job” the customer is trying to get done when using a product or service. By focusing on the job rather than the product, companies can gain a more stable, long-term view of the market and identify opportunities for innovation that transcend current solutions.
  2. Uncover the customer’s needs: In this step, the company breaks down the job-to-be-done into its component parts and identifies the metrics customers use to measure success at each step. These metrics, or “desired outcomes,” form the basis for understanding the customer’s needs in a comprehensive, solution-agnostic way. They instruct the company on how to help customers get the job done faster, more predictably, and with superior results.
  3. Quantify the degree to which each need is over- or underserved: By conducting quantitative research, the company can determine which desired outcomes are most important to customers and which are currently not well-satisfied by existing solutions. This data enables the company to prioritize opportunities to get the job done better and/or more cheaply. It also reveals competitive strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Discover hidden segments of opportunity: Outcome-based segmentation techniques reveal groups of customers with different unmet needs. This insight is not possible when using traditional segmentation methods. By targeting these underserved segments with tailored solutions, companies can often find “hidden” opportunities for growth that their competitors have overlooked.
  5. Formulate the market and product strategy: Armed with a deep understanding of the customer’s needs and a clear view of the market opportunities, the company can define its strategy for creating customer value. This includes determining which segments to target, what mix of products and services to offer, and how to communicate the value proposition to the market.

By following a structured innovation process built around these five steps, companies can dramatically improve their chances of success in the marketplace. They can confidently innovate, knowing their efforts are focused on addressing the customer’s most important unmet needs. They can also avoid the costly cycle of trial and error that often leads to failed product launches and missed opportunities.

This is truly a customer-centric approach to innovation.

How Kroll Ontrack grew revenue by $200m with an effective innovation process

One company that has seen firsthand the benefits of a structured innovation process is Kroll Ontrack. The company struggled to define a strategy for its fledgling electronic discovery business. The market was new, and customers didn’t know what features they needed.

By applying a structured innovation process, Kroll Ontrack uncovered the job that legal teams were trying to get done and identified the outcomes they were trying to achieve. Armed with this information, the company created a new offering that addressed customers’ unmet needs and leapfrogged the competition.

The results speak for themselves. Kroll Ontrack grew its electronic discovery revenue from $11 million to over $200 million in six years. They became the industry leader in both market share and revenue and were recognized as the most-used electronic discovery provider for seven years in a row.


The traditional approach to innovation, which employs constant iteration and a “fail fast”mentality, isn’t enough to drive predictable growth and success.

Product leaders can transform their innovation practices from a game of chance to a science of success by adopting a structured, outcome-based innovation process. They can systematically uncover customer needs, identify growth opportunities, and create products and services that deliver real value.

The benefits are clear: increased customer satisfaction and loyalty and improved operational efficiency and effectiveness. And as the Kroll Ontrack example shows, the results can be truly transformative.

So, if you’re a product leader ready to take your innovation efforts to the next level, now is the time to act. Embrace a structured customer-centric approach to innovation and unlock the full potential of your products and your organization.

The future of your company depends on it.

Tony Ulwick

Tony is the pioneer of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, inventor of the Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI) process, and founder and CEO of Strategyn. Philip Kotler calls Tony “the Deming of innovation” and Clayton Christensen credits him with “bringing predictability to innovation.” Published in Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review, Tony is also the author of 2 best sellers: What Customers Want and JOBS TO BE DONE: Theory to Practice.

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