Avoid the New Product Kiss of Death
Jack, a product development engineer for the Handy Save food storage container company is very enthusiastic about the new vacuum sealable one-way valve he has scouted. An avid home chef, he is convinced that it could be adapted for use in a pancake batter storage vessel. Unused pancake batter could stay fresh for days! He is quite eager to obtain consumer feedback to build internal support. So, he quickly commissions qualitative consumer research and exposes the idea to panelists. However, instead of mirroring his enthusiasm, the best that the panelists (women, 18-54 yrs old) can muster in its behalf is, "You could take it camping." Jack is disappointed, but in hindsight, he really should have anticipated this result.
Jack would be wise to take a step back and reassess the opportunity, starting with the needs of his target audience. While it is common to start with an unmet need and to scout solutions, it is also sometimes possible to begin with a robust technology and seek to match it with appropriate needs. A tougher task, but it can sometimes work. In Jack's case, he wrongly assumed that because he was enthusiastic about the technology and had identified a specific potential application for it, that others would be, too. Not the strongest basis for investing corporate research funds. Perhaps he can still identify stronger opportunities for a specialty food storage container with a vacuum seal valve, building on consumer perceptions that vacuum sealed foods remain fresher longer. However, without a fundamental understanding of unmet consumer needs, he's got a solution in search of a problem, and a tougher road to hoe.
Contrast this with Tupperware's very intelligently designed Fridgesmart containers http://order.tupperware.com/coe/app/!tw$shop.p_category?pv_ic_code=25000 , which enables venting of respiratory gases generated by ripening produce to dramatically extend freshness. Distinctive, with a major customer benefit, attractive and relevant to a vast audience. Tupperware started by understanding a compelling consumer need (produce spoils before it is consumed), developed ingenious, effective solution(s) and executed it well.
In new product development, there really aren't consistently effective short cuts to the framing of a sound business opportunity. The time and effort invested up front to devise a sound proposition greatly helps enhance success odds.
Start by asking and answering these questions:
Who (as descriptively as possible) is the innovation designed for?
What problem or need does it uniquely solve?
How intense and or common is the need?
Once these questions are satisfactorily addressed, you can be confident that you have a sound basis for exploration.