In a blatant display of frustration, Gerry Katz, a long-time advocate of Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) methods and the vice president of a firm that competes with Strategyn, has gone on the attack with a public Outcome-Driven Innovation critique. Given what Mr. Katz asserts in his attack, it appears as though he either does not understand ODI (which disrupts VOC practices), or he is purposefully attacking ODI to put doubt in the minds of those who are considering its use. Why Mr. Katz refers to Strategyn founder and innovation expert Tony Ulwick (who has worked to reinvent VOC since the mid-1980’s and holds 10 patents in this space) as a “newcomer to VOC” is beyond us. Why he attacks ODI using fabricated examples that fail to pass our stringent quality controls is also disturbing.
Regardless of Mr. Katz’s motives, we have taken great pleasure addressing each of his assertions, once again explaining why VOC is obsolete and why Outcome-Driven Innovation practices provide companies a giant leap forward in understanding their customer’s needs. (Download our response to Mr. Katz’s attack here).
Our response to Mr. Katz’s Outcome-Driven Innovation critique not only addresses his assertions, but it highlights the business advantages of the ODI methodology and the strategic and tactical differences between it and traditional voice-of-the-customer (VOC) practices.
VOC tools were initially intended to help engineers with product design; that is to improve products that already exist or have already been conceptualized and approved for development. Traditional VOC practitioners have for years tried to persuade companies that VOC is also a useful tool for the innovation process: helping companies conceptualize new products to be approved for development. Using VOC for this purpose has failed miserably, as new product failure rates of over 95 percent attest. Yet despite VOC’s ineffectiveness when it comes to new product innovation, its supporters continue to push and defend its applicability.
Because traditional VOC practices are flawed, many companies have come to believe that customers do not know, or can not communicate effectively, their actual needs and requirements. They believe that customer needs change quickly over time and that customer have latent needs. This misguided VOC-based thinking has also hampered less complicated product improvement efforts. This is one of the major challenges facing businesses today. Because of this, businesses need to continue to find more creative methods of understanding customer requirements. Strategyn offers such a method.
In order to obtain the customer inputs needed for new product innovation, Strategyn’s methodology is not focused on the product as are traditional VOC practices. Rather, it is focused on understanding the job-to-be-done; that is the job the customer has hired the product to perform. This focus is necessary in order for companies to discover all their customer’s needs, determine which are unmet and to what degree, and to use those insights to formulate and deploy the appropriate growth strategy. This fundamental shift in perspective is far reaching as it impacts the way customer needs are defined, captured, prioritized, and used throughout the innovation process and for subsequent marketing activities. This approach renders VOC obsolete as a tool for new product innovation. Our practices have been published in the Harvard Business Review and the MIT Sloan Management Review and cited by Clayton Christensen in his book The Innovator’s Solution. They are well respected and well established within many Fortune 1000 companies, and have a success rate of 86 percent. (Download our white paper which explains the ODI process).
In regard to the critique by Mr. Katz, Strategyn founder and CEO Tony Ulwick says, “we are always interested in critical views of our methodology – this is what has made it the unique and revolutionary tool for innovation it is today. Despite Gerry’s obvious motives, his Outcome-Driven Innovation critique has allowed us to address the arguments that the old guard continues to use to perpetuate the use of their ineffective practices, and for that, we thank him.”