Developing a New Product? Key Questions to Ask

An infographic with some key questions to consider when developing a new product. Originally suggested in “Breakthrough Thinking From Inside the Box” by Coyne, Clifford, and Dye in HBR December 2007.

Developing a New Product? Key Questions to Ask

Developing a New Product? Key Questions to Ask

These questions are taken from “Breakthrough Thinking From Inside the Box” by Kevin Coyne, Patricia Gorman Clifford, and Renee Dye in the December 2007 Harvard Business Review.

  1. Which customers use or purchase our product in the most unusual way?
  2. Do any customers need vastly more or less sales and service attention than most.
  3. For which customers are our support costs (e.g. order entry, tracking, customer specific design) either unusually high or low?
  4. Could we still meet the needs of a significant subset of customers if we stripped 25% of the hard or soft costs out of our products?
  5. Who spends at least 50% of what our product costs to adapt it to their specific needs?
  6. Who uses our product in ways that we never expected or intended?
  7. Who uses our product in surprisingly large quantities?
  8. What other firms are dealing with the same generic problem as we are but for an entirely different reason? How have they addressed it?
  9. What major breakthroughs in efficiency or effectiveness have we made in our business that could be applied in another industry?
  10. What information about customers and product use is created as a by-product of our business that could be the key to radically improving the economics of another business.
  11. What is the biggest hassle of purchasing or using or product?
  12. What are some examples of ad hoc modifications that customers have made with our product.
  13. For which current customers is our product least suited and why?
  14. For what particular occasions is our product least suited?
  15. Which customers does our industry prefer not to serve and why?
  16. Which customers could be major users, if only we could remove one specific barrier that we’ve never previously considered?
  17. How would we do things differently if we had perfect information about our buyers, usage, distribution channels, etc..
  18. How would our product change if we tailored it for every customer?
  19. Which technologies embedded in our product have changed the most since the product was last redesigned?
  20. Which technologies underlying our production process have changed the most since we last rebuilt our manufacturing and distribution systems.
  21. Which customers’ needs are shifting more rapidly? What will they be in five years?

You can actually skip the article if you are looking for additional insights or elaborations on these very useful questions, it’s an attack on the brainstorming process as practiced by large corporations and not relevant for startups. But I did elaborate on them in 21 Great Questions for Developing New Products if you are looking for additional insights on these very useful questions.

Three Key Take Aways For Developing A New Product

The main thing to take away is that customer intimacy, and therefore those who are closest to your customers, is a significant source of innovative insight. Second is to look to adjacent industries for component technologies and methodologies to apply to your current market is another good source of inspiration. Third, assess the total cost to acquire and own your solution, and any attendant delays and/or risks you impose on your customers: these are good places to hunt for opportunities to add value to your product.

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