Last week, I shared a story about a woman who was so intent on following her GPS instructions she drove into Canada’s Georgian Bay. My takeaway from that story was that product teams often follow instructions from their users too closely when enhancing existing products, but don’t listen to the market at all when it comes to innovation. Both ends of that spectrum can be problematic, but when it comes to innovation, it’s disastrous.
The remedy is to proactively look for opportunities to innovate in the markets you want to serve. To do that, you need a way to focus your market research even though you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.
The Building Blocks: Objects, Attributes and Sources
The building blocks of market-driven innovation lie in creating an inventory of Objects, Attributes and Sources that reflect your organization’s strategy. Determine who do you want to serve and what you want to build, at a high level, then search for inspiration in those areas. In other words – build a map that will restrict aimless wandering, but leave you open to finding that next new thing in a space where you can respond with strength.
Let’s start with the example from last week: you build case-management software for law firms, and you want to continue innovating for that market. A simple inventory of Objects, Attributes and Sources might look something like this:
Now, we’ll answer the question: "how do I align and engage my organization around the effort needed to deliver market-driven innovation?" To do that we’ll build the Market Strategist’s Listening Map. Why call it a Listening Map? Because market-driven innovation begins with listening to your markets.
The Visualization: The Market Strategist’s Listening Map
The Listening Map for the example inventory above could look like this:
This example only shows one facet of what you might want to know to serve the law firm market; a complete Listening Map will account for all Objects you need to investigate. Continuing with the example, other Objects may include the function/persona of "Personal Injury Lawyer;" the professional association of "American Bar Association" or even the workflow various personas are involved in, represented as "Case Management Workflow." The higher your aspirations for disruptive innovation, the more complex your Listening Map will be.
How Does a Listening Map Help the Team?
Creating a Listening Map provides myriad benefits, including:
Enabling leadership to understand the scope of your efforts. Even innovation on purpose can be expensive and risky; sharing a Listening Map gives management a tool to visualize the direction you’re headed - and justification to fund the expedition.
Helping team members understand their role in gathering information. For example, your IT department could be a Source of information. They’re most likely to know about the latest enabling technology, such as machine learning and AR, that’s available to solve market problems, but might never think to share that insight with you. Sales expects to deliver market knowledge to the product team, but not IT. With a Listening Map, they can – literally – connect those dots to see how they fit.
Focusing the efforts of your market analysis teams. They’re the experts in data mining and analysis; giving them direction will both accelerate their output and improve the results.
What Else Could You Include in Your Listening Map?
The most important message being conveyed by the Listening Map is where you intend to look for inspiration for market-driven innovation. However, you could add insights to the graphic as you progressed, such as:
Timeline for Research. Adding a note for which month or quarter you expect to investigate each source helps you manage expectations around when you’ll have recommendations for new directions.
Depth of Current Knowledge. It’s impossible to know everything about every Object at all times. Providing a graphic indication of the depth of your current knowledge and confidence increases your credibility and ensures leadership knows the level of risk you’re taking when decisions are made. One way to do this is to color an Object red (high risk/little knowledge), yellow (medium risk/incomplete knowledge) or green (low risk/high confidence in the knowledge you have).
Relationship of Objects. Across product portfolios or markets, Objects such as personas may play different roles or have different needs. It could get a little messy but bringing all maps together one visual can drive home the complex nature of market-driven innovation.
Searching for innovation without tools to guide you is frustrating, inefficient and expensive. To innovate on purpose, you must look for inspiration on purpose. That means building a Listening Map of Objects, Attributes and Sources that deliver the insights you need, and take you in the direction you want to go.
About the Author
Diane Pierson is the Founder and Principal Market Strategist at Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy helping organizations achieve market-driven success through planning, executing and communicating effective product innovation. Diane is also a visiting instructor at Pragmatic Institute. Contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org.