I don’t remember where I read the quote, but it is correct. Just ask Harry. Harry is a product manager at a producer of gas fireplaces. Because the government strives for a climate-neutral society, a lot is coming to Harry and his colleagues. How does the company maintain a good market position? And how do you ensure that all employees keep their jobs in a changing market? For Harry it is absolutely clear: innovation is the solution.
Harry has already been through quite a search. He explored the technical possibilities and the associated points for attention. It soon became clear to him that a lot is possible. But does the customer want that too? What are the real needs of the market?
Sparring with the customer
Anja is Harry’s contact person at his main dealer. Together they organize a discussion with a number of customers. Pretty exciting. Because what are they going to say? What are they excited about? And can Harry and his team live up to those options? Do they come up with good arguments? And can Harry make promises or does he create endless expectations?
It’s time. Harry is ready. The flipchart and the markers too. The customer panel talks to each other and Harry and the options and suggestions are fly around the room. Harry records them all. Everyone is happy at the end of the afternoon. Harry with the input and the panel because their opinions and suggestions are taken seriously.
The conclusions of that afternoon? The customer panel especially values atmosphere and convenience. Hence, the app is still an interesting option. Especially if it provides a better insight into consumption and makes it possible to vary the mode. Or if he reports what exactly is going on in the event of a malfunction or which part needs to be replaced. Such an app makes the gas fireplace a more complete product that meets the wishes of the customer.
Ifs and buts
Fortunately, there are also critical notes, because they offer the opportunity to improve (even further). The customer panel wonders what will happen if the Netherlands gets rid of natural gas. What’s the point of their old gas fire? Is it easy to convert to a fire that uses a different fuel? What guarantees do they get? Or will they be given the option of an add-on or the option of swapping out the burners for a different type by then? Harry must not answer them at that point. He needs to think about it for a moment, because it is about much more than “simply” revising the business model. But he will definitely come back to it in the future.
Relieved and happy, Harry comes home. He is looking forward to taking the next steps. And to spar with his friend Johan, whom he sees tonight. He is independent, looks at everything from the other side (sometimes annoying, but now very useful) and occasionally has brilliant ideas.
Tip 1 from Johan: change the way of thinking
While they are having a beer that evening, Johan tells about a beautiful documentary he saw recently. It was about an investigation in the Second World War. The aim of the study was to improve the survivability of fighter aircraft by analyzing the damage after a flight. The researchers made a list of the defects found and the points that needed to be strengthened. Until one of the researchers commented that they were now investigating planes that had returned. The planes that had not returned had probably hit other points. Chances were that the list of points that needed strengthening was not entirely correct. A nice insight.
This makes Harry think. He has now spoken to customers who bought their product, who were enthusiastic and would likely return as a customer. But it would be good to also ask people who had requested a quote, but who had not bought a fireplace. What was their motivation for not buying? And how can they respond to this as producer and seller?
Tip 2 from Johan: Find an ambassador
Harry’s musings are interrupted by Johan’s following suggestion. “Find someone within management who subscribes to your idea and believes in it. Then you have an ally who supports your story, who also feels responsible for the plans and who helps you further. In other words, someone who represents you in the boardroom. “
That seems like something to Harry. He decides to present the results of the search to the technical director tomorrow. The common thread of his story is that the company will add extra value to the gas fireplaces with digitization. It is technically possible. And Jan (head of engineering), Peter (head of marketing), Anja (contact person at the dealer) and the customer panel are already enthusiastic. He is simply going to transfer that collective enthusiasm to the technical director. You would say, what could go wrong?
But more about that next time.
Innovation is learning and doing
Just like Harry, you will encounter more and more questions when looking for an innovative solution. You look at various options, you research and inventory and you learn from the insights you encounter on your path. And then you do it, because of course it does not stop at thinking.
In the following blogs we will tell you how Harry is doing. Your question may not be the same as his, but your innovative process looks pretty much the same. So keep following Harry. And if you have questions about your specific situation or if you want to know more about safety electronics or possibilities of digitization, please contact us.
Dennis Wissink has over 20 years of experience in the technical secondment. He is co-founder of Xelvin (internationally operating in technical secondment). He lead this company for 9 years as CEO. Where he has gained experience with company strategy and startup new concepts, offices and companies. Specialities are strategic development, Design Thinking and business Models.
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