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Are You Really Innovating Around Your Customers’ Needs?

In this article, let’s talk about the HBR article, “Are You Really Innovating Around Your Customers’ Needs?” HBR recommends three ways that organizations can come up with truly innovative ideas by putting people first. To see how this looks in action, let’s walk through the critical path to creating opportunities for your customers with an example use case from LineZero’s engagement with Tim Horton’s Foundation Camps

Understanding your customer’s business challenges

First, understand your customer’s business challenges without making the discussion technology centric. To frame your thinking, ask yourself the following questions – “What are we trying to solve? What are the constraints that exist? What are the dependencies?” To make clear the opportunities available to the customer, we recommend writing each business challenges in the form of a question.

Doing so will ensure that you are asking the right questions to curate opportunities in the most optimal way. For example, here is how we structured the opportunities available to THFC:

  1. Tim’s Camp has 7 locations across North America, creating vast distances between employees. How do you connect displaced employees and numerous offices? 
  2. How do you ensure that your frontline workers are connected, especially when they don’t have access to a computer and company email address? 
  3. How do you keep your seasonal workers engaged in the off-season so they will come back year-after-year? 

From these questions, we can see that there are three overarching areas of opportunity: bridging the gap between dispersed locations, connecting frontlines, and improving employee retention. By structing the opportunities in question-format, not only will your organization become more efficient, but you will also produce better business outcomes for the customer. 

Identifying your customers' pain points

Second, identify pain points. Instead of identifying a general challenge, your customers are better served by identifying specific opportunities.

For example, one opportunity we identified for THFC is enhancing employee communication. THFC wanted to be able to see what was happening across Canada and interact with the various restaurant-wide initiatives that were taking place.

Notice the identified pain point or opportunity is different from the solution-oriented questions described in point #1. Here we can gain another piece of the puzzle by shifting the focus slightly to a discussion around pain points only.

In summary, always look beyond your product. Rather than starting with your product features and linking them to specific opportunities, simply discuss the opportunities absent of the technology solution. Notice that not once was Workplace from Facebook mentioned throughout the road mapping initiatives above. This way, you fully understand the customers’ motivations and the potential opportunities that will add value.

For more ideas around customer-centric road mapping, contact LineZero Team