Want to Innovate? First, Get Your Story Straight

Monday, 14 October 2013 06:30
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Prospective innovators can become prematurely occupied with pursuing product execution options before they have even confirmed that their value proposition is sound. This approach virtually assures wasted time, energy and resources.

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends.

Want to Innovate? First, Get Your Story Straight

I am a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course in Entrepreneurship at The Ohio State University. I encourage my students to work hard to ensure that their value propositions are coherent prior to engaging in other activities, including product development. Still, some students' initial tendency is to want to get busy working on the product execution, sometimes sooner than they should.

For instance, in a class last year, a student team devised the business concept of creating and selling pre made alcohol-infused gelatin shots (you gotta love college students) as a convenience item for local bars. They judged that existing preparation techniques occupied considerable bar space and substantial prep time. OK, that's a reasonable hypothesis. However, prior to doing any basic customer research with bar owners to test their premise, they got very involved in developing a technically feasible concoction (even involving external professional volunteer resources) and a prospective supply chain. For instance, it would have been very useful for them to know whether bars see gelatin shots as a sufficiently large business driver that these benefits would be relevant to them. I am convinced they could have used simple props to elicit this valuable and necessary input from their target customer.

While their approach can be rationalized as having been undertaken by overeager students rather than trained, experienced professionals, I have found that corporate teams can at times also become prematurely occupied with developing product executions. This activity can often be triggered by a management whim (or edict) in the absence of a well articulated value proposition. While these instances can put project teams in a challenging position, nailing down the value proposition (i.e. the concise expression of the target customer promises, including points of meaningful differentiation, and compelling reasons to believe) is always a smart precursor to product development activity.

What do you think?

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