In planning future products, many companies put a lot of effort into standard techniques like Voice of the Customer. These methods are good tools designed to prioritize customers wants and needs, and provide inputs on new products.
But I don’t think they are the best way to develop products that delight you, the customer. Why? Because the basic tenet of these tools is that they rely on a customers existing context, that is, your reply within the framework of what exists today. You may respond saying faster, cheaper, different color, etc., which are all useful for creating a better version of a current product. But it is rare that these methods lead to a disruptive new concept that will ultimately delight you.
My definition of a truly innovative product is one that gives you more than what you want in a way you could not have thought to ask for.
To develop a product like that, we have to focus on the workflow and “live” your experience. This can be done through talking with you, understanding how you do work your daily process and what your fundamental challenges are.
To use our own products, install them in front of you and internalize what you like and dislike. When we do these things over and over, and focus initially not on the product, but on what problems need to be solved, then true innovation can be created.
We make products that solve ergonomic and productivity issues for computer users. Many of us at Ergotron are laptop users with port replicators, and a flat panel monitor at work. We take our laptops home every night for work and teleconferences. I call this the typical “road warrior.” Three years ago, all these laptops sat closed on our desks in the port replicator, while we used single monitors. The laptop screen wasted all day long. We knew the productivity that can be gained by using dual monitors, yet we looked at these wasted screens and saw an opportunity.
We set out to solve the problem of allowing you to view your open, docked notebook and utilize it as a second screen. And to do so in an ergonomic and convenient way. As users, we knew the problem because we lived it every day. Out of that problem came a unique product that nobody every asked for – the Neo-Flex™ Combo Lift Stand.
I have that product on my desk at home, providing the productivity of a dual monitor solution and the ergonomic advantages of a height-adjustable, swiveling stand in one compact unit. This product is changing the way people work, and helps provide 10% or more productivity improvement for everyone using it.
The best way to be innovative is the “live the problem” that needs to be solved and to take a workflow view. The best way to do this is to install and use your own products.