Feel the Pain

dysonI’ve talked a bit about value proposition design recently, and the need to get out of the building and find out what your customers really want. But what if this isn’t enough? And why is it that so many stories of inventors getting out of the building have  customers do the exact opposite of what was expected?

In this December interview with business review weekly, James Dyson (of cyclonic vacuum cleaner fame) said that:

To design well, one must have experienced the pain and frustration of an existing product not working well

To me, this means more than simply observing your customers in the field. This is about actually trying the product for yourself and living the customer journey. When you can bond with your customers over shared pain, and find a better way forward … that is where true insight comes from. Tim Brown of IDEO encourages us not to ask ‘what’, but to ask ‘why’. Understanding why your customers are behaving in the way they are, and being able to get inside of their heads through having shared their pain and frustration is essential if you want your customer discovery observations to provide real insight.

Pivot, don’t start again

Dyson also mentions that people know when they want change, even when they don’t know what that change should be.  This is the part where you come in. Your job in customer discovery is to live your customer journey, come up with clever insights, and try out your ideas for something better. Whilst it may be tempting to throw our arms up in the air and start again when a product or service doesn’t work. Don’t. Stick at it and use your imagination to find a way to make it work.

Walking away from your ideas is not pivoting, it is walking away. The pivot involves making minor course corrections whilst heading in the same essential direction. If you want to complete the customer discovery process you need to make sense of these user surprises, build on what you have learned and move on.

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