New Product Development…Intuition First, Data Second

In most businesses, creating solid new products is straightforward assuming you have the time and the resources you need. You canvass customers, mine data, run financials, and then give customers as much as feasible of what they asked for. As long as the quality is good and the price reflects the value the consumer thinks she’s getting, you will do pretty well most of the time.

Without a doubt, data and analytics are necessary and often sufficient if you want to optimize existing products, or even create solid new ones. But if you want to truly innovate, remember that numbers alone are never, ever enough. To develop products that “alter the flow of the universe,” as Steve Jobs says, data must be coupled with intuition, with intuition in the lead. And intuition is not innate, it must be nurtured and put to work.

    1. Nurture your intuition
      There is nothing like listening to those you are hoping to serve authentically, without hiding behind artifices like one-way mirrors or quantitative surveys, to nurture your intuition. Regularly visit service centers and listen to what representatives have to say about her. Answer her phone calls, letters and complaints, even if it’s not your job.   Over a glass of wine at a cocktail party, ask a friend which of the products in your industry she prefers and why. Take a client out to dinner for no particular reason. In short, care enough about your customer to invest significant time in creating a relationship with her. It will make you a better marketer. You will also like your job more.


    1. Focus your intuition
      Have the self-awareness to know that you cannot solve your customer’s every problem, or meet her every need, even if you know what they are.  Instead focus your intuitive mind on those problems that you can solve entirely, elegantly, and simply. Focus will improve your odds of success every time.   A quick test of whether you have picked a real problem that you can really solve is how easy it is for you to write the positioning statement for your product. If it’s a cinch, you got it.  If you struggle, take it is a sign that something is not quite right and go back and explore some more.


  1. Trust your intuition
    Following your gut takes courage. Don’t overload your product with features “just in case” your judgment is off.  And resist the temptation (this is really hard in most organizations) to dilute your solution to “improve the numbers;”  projecting future performance based on past performance doesn’t work with innovations.

Tip of the Month (On Product Development):  According to Albert Einstein: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”   If you want blow your customers away with a truly innovative product, by all means remember the servant…but first, always, honor the gift.

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