Great innovation can come from technical brilliance – Inside-Out – but without customer validation it has long-odds on success. Many firms find learning how to investigate and interpret customer’s unmet needs a hard discipline to adopt. It can mean learning a whole new way of working, particularly for firms with strong technical backgrounds.
The value of engaging customers directly is that it helps you learn which of your ‘inside-out’ assumptions are valid, and which are self- serving. Knowing what it takes to generate end-user excitement is important in any market, even highly technical ones.
Several methodologies can help to develop this capability, such as Design Thinking or Outcome Driven Innovation (ODI). ODI converts customer insight into the customer’s ‘Job To Be Done’, that is what the customer wants to do that they cannot do today. Knowing the job releases Inside-Out creativity by making it clear the problem a solution solves.
Here are six critical success factors that can guide you in applying Outside-In:
1. Know your biases
Write down your assumptions about your intended customers; what you think they need, how they buy, what they value.
2. Get out of the building
Get out of the building to interview, observe, and learn from potential customers.
3. Open wide
Find customers that you do not know, cannot usually reach, ones that challenge your understanding of the opportunity. Tap into the wisdom of the crowds by running crowdsourcing campaigns and hiring from open talent networks
4. Empathize with customers
Know your customers’ journey, how do they satisfy their needs today, what motivates their choices, what problems remain unsolved.
5. Be a skeptic
Find evidence that disproves your assumptions. If all your assumptions are confirmed, you were not really learning.
6. Find the signals from the noise
Discovery data can overwhelm, use a methodology for narrowing down the information to find the key messages from customers – what are the outcomes they seek that no one is helping them achieve today?
The innovator can never really know their market without working with, observing, and talking to them. You must learn what it means to walk in their footsteps or risk creating something that will not serve those whose lives you wish to improve.
Read more about Outside In thinking vs. Inside Out here.