Whither your R&D focus? What is your R&D effort geared towards?
In other words, what task have you set for your R&D team? To work on what is possible, or what is needed? The eternal dance between two questions. Unless you are deeply funded and are working on a very long-term basis, you’re more likely to be working on the latter question i.e. what is needed.
Nowadays, companies know that being technology driven is not useful. Creating a new technology and then finding markets for them is no longer viable. In the past, they use to do so. Motorola’s Iridium project cost them $5 billion to build, which they had to sell off for $5 million. That is half a penny for every dollar it originally cost. They gambled on a market that was not there.
So, it seems unlikely that you’ve tasked your R&D team to work on what is possible. They must be working on what is needed.
But how do you establish what is needed? Do you work on ‘voice of the customer’ or on ‘voice of the product’?
Well, both work. Also, neither works unless you are careful.
Of course, you must work towards what the customer wants but carrying out customer need surveys – needs ,benefits, solutions etc – is not the way to do it. The typical customer is like me who sincerely asserts that ‘I value good health’ and then goes to Pizza Hut and orders a double Pizza with extra cheese! No, asking won’t work. One must very carefully
find out for himself.
It is not what ‘solutions’ he says he wants, but what ‘outcomes’ he seems to be preferring when he is on the bench, not the desk.
Now we know that
• Customers buy products and services to help them some JTBD (Job To Be Done).
• They use a set of performance measures to judge how well a job is getting done.
• These customer metrics, not ‘customer voices’, makes possible the systematic and predictable creation of breakthrough products and services.
As for ‘voice of the product’ one must be able to find out the contradiction – i.e. we want X and also want anti-X – in the product and solve it. This is possible only through TRIZ.
TRIZ also helps R&D teams by guiding them to which way will technology inevitably move. It further helps them by providing tools to find out alternate technologies to do the same task.
It seems that ODI (Outcome Driven Innovation), married with TRIZ, is the profitable way for R& D teams.
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