In a prior career I once spent an entire day visiting, meeting with, and pitching a company that wanted to use our innovation services to help redesign their user interface.
We described our methodology - which was heavily weighted toward upfront customer and stakeholder research (and which they knew about before we got there), and mapped out our approach to their specific project. Everyone nodded their heads “yes” and agreed that learning what those people wanted and valued made absolute sense. ”Why would you NOT go learn what they wanted and valued?”, they said. ”That was why you were contacted in the first place – because we aren’t sure what our customers want – but the product is absolutely crucial to our company’s financial success”, they said.
But at the end of the day, we left without a project. The reason? The president (who had not been in the meeting), we were informed, “knew how he wanted to do it”.
Although we went away dejected, this encounter has given me more value than you might expect. For years, I’ve been able to give people a great example of how NOT to innovate (i.e. on an executive’s whim with no line of sight into what customers or other stakeholders value). It makes a great story.
What is so wrong about just taking off down the path your intuition sends you? Possibly nothing, but possibly a lot. If you just take off, how will you know whether your decision is right until after you invest significant dollars in product development and a market launch? And then possibly have to spend even more to unwind a mistake?
Do the work up front, and you can invest in development with the confidence of knowing what your customers value.