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Customer Focused Innovation

Turning your customers inputs into an innovation process that works

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Jobs to be Done HBR

Turn Customer Input Into Innovation

In this timeless Harvard Business Review article, Tony Ulwick first introduces the concept of Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) to HBR readers. In Turn Customer Input Into Innovation, Ulwick explains how the jobs-to-be done innovation theory was transformed into an effective innovation process.

Ulwick notes that most companies these days strive to be customer focused in their innovation thinking. But often, he says, they go about seeking input from their customers the wrong way. They’ll ask their customers what they want; customers then offer solutions. Companies develop the product and … it fails. The reason is simple. Customers aren’t able to come up with solutions. That, Ulwick says, is not their job; it’s the job of a company’s research and development group.

To be successful at innovation, Ulwick says that companies should focus on the jobs that customers are trying to get done. To understand customer needs, companies must understand the job the customer is trying to get done. They must understand how customers measure the successful execution of a job. This is the essence of the Outcome-Driven Innovation theory.

Drawing on his work with Cordis Corporation (now a division of Johnson & Johnson), Ulwick explains how the ODI process works and how it was used by Cordis to elevate the company into a leadership position in the angioplasty balloon market.

The article describes a series of Outcome-Driven Innovation process steps that Cordis used to capture, analyze, and use customer inputs. First comes in-depth interviews, where a practitioner works with customers to deconstruct a job or activity to unearth the “customers’ needs” or “outcomes.” Researchers then compile a comprehensive list of outcomes that participants rank in order of importance and the degree to which they are satisfied by existing products. Finally, using a simple mathematical formula, researchers can learn the relative attractiveness of key areas of opportunity. This simple mathematical formula is called the “opportunity algorithm”, which is also introduced in the article.

Learn how the jobs-to-be-done innovation theory was transformed into an effective innovation process in this ground-breaking and timeless article.

Go to Harvard Business Review site to download.

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