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Jeff Standridge: Hey guys, welcome to the Innovation Junkies podcast. My name is Jeff Standridge.
Jeff Amerine: I’m just glad to be here with you again today, Jeff, for another episode.
Jeff Standridge: Once again, the Jeff’s are back and this is another bonus episode. Couple of weeks ago, we launched the process of talking about our innovation leadership blueprint, which defines how to disrupt the status quo, create massive value, and generate sustained results. We focused two weeks ago on identifying the right problem to solve or opportunity to chase. Today, we’re going to be focused on how do we create a quality design solution in order to solve that problem? And I like to start with the point that we’re generally not talking about minimal incremental value here, while there is a form of innovation called incremental innovation. In this instance, we’re really looking with a bias toward creating massive value because we have to overcome the behavioral habits of the status quo. And if the solution doesn’t create enough value, we’ll have a hard time getting it adopted. So let’s talk a little bit about this concept of human centered solution design, Jeff.
Jeff Amerine: Yeah. And a lot of it begins with empathy, right? It’s the idea of being empathetic towards the group that has the problem. And so empathy is defined as really being able to walk in that customer, that user, that stakeholder’s shoes. And that requires a lot of engagement with validation and with really fact-finding to really understand, is this something that is going to deliver that massive value? Is it going to be a breakthrough? And the only way you know that is by getting out of the building as Steve Blank would say, and engaging with the customer in dialogue.
Jeff Standridge: Yeah. I love Steve Blank’s perspective where he says there are no facts in the building, only assumptions and only opinions. They may be educated opinions, but their opinions nonetheless. So we start with a draft solution design and I like to engage as many stakeholders that really understand the problem as possible into crafting that design. You may even start with multiple designs of a solution and go through some form of down selecting those. But once you ultimately get to what you think is your prototypical solution design, then we have to go back through the process of qualitative stakeholder validation as you said, actually getting out in front of those end users, those economic decision makers, those potential influencers and saboteurs. What’s your perspective on this, Jeff? Do we go back to the same stakeholders or do we create a completely different set of stakeholders in terms of the individuals?
Jeff Amerine: I mean, and you can do some of both. Yeah. I think it’s good to go back to the original ones and make sure that you’ve got it right. It’s also good to randomize it and test it on a broader spectrum of people and see if it’s a generalizable solution over a larger population of stakeholders. I think that’s crucially important. And the other thing I would say about that is, it’s important particularly if you’re talking about something in the enterprise context to describe the solution in terms of features and functions, but not to forget that typically stakeholders are going to be interested in benefits. So some of the language you use has to be in terms of the economic benefit, the benefit to whatever group it is that you’re trying to solve the problem for. So I think that’s the other key part. Sometimes we get locked into description and features. We’ve also got to bring forth the benefits.
Jeff Standridge: Yeah. I often talk about the real, win, worth test, right? Is it real? Can we win? And is it worth the effort? And that’s really what the economic decision makers are actually, all the stakeholders are looking to answer in their own ways as end-users being real, win, and worth the effort is, does it change my workflow in a positive manner? Does it make me more effective, more productive, result in less wasted time, et cetera. For the economic decision maker, it’s really more about the financial impact or the technical impact if it’s a technical decision maker. So is it real? Can we win? Is it worth the effort? We’re really looking for that sweet spot in the Venn diagram of technical people in business. And what I like to say is, is it technically feasible? The solution we’ve designed, is it technically feasible? Will that solution impact enough people to be worth the effort business-wise? Or in the form of a startup, will enough people buy it at the price point required for it to be worth the effort to produce a profitable, ongoing business? That’s the sweet spot that we’re looking for.
Jeff Amerine: Yeah. And that sweet spot is crucially important too. And it was kind of a fine point that was put on it and was crystallized around the time of the.com bus. When there was a lot of people prior to that that were maybe buying technology for the sake of technology, seemed like the right thing to do. I think fundamental economics came back that revolved exactly around those three aspects that you described. Is this going to move, increase revenues or decrease costs? Is it going to have a tangible impact on the audience that we’re going to try to get to? And is it something we can achieve? So I think that’s, it seems simple and obvious, but it isn’t so obvious to everyone and it’s important to stay focused on those pieces for sure.
Jeff Standridge: Yeah. And I want to come back and underscore what you said a few moments ago about the entire design process is rooted in the basis of empathetic design or of walking a mile in those customers’ shoes. And the only way you can do that is to get those customers and key stakeholders involved. So just like when the evidence pointed to the contrary, when we were trying to validate our problem statement, we had to pivot that problem statement. In this instance, we start with a solution design that’s been perhaps multi sourced and ultimately down selected. And we begin that process of validation. We have to be willing to reiterate that solution, to redesign that solution, to tweak that solution based upon the feedback that we get from those stakeholders.
Jeff Amerine: Yeah, absolutely. And to give kind of another real life example of that, in the early days of American Freightways, outside people would come to review what they were doing because they were one of the fastest growing, less than truckload carriers in the country. And the observation was the information technology people, they couldn’t tell the difference between them and operations or any other functional area. And it was because those solution providers, the classic solution providers in IT were riding along with the drivers, they were working on the crosstalks, they were in with pricing, they were in with sales. They really became immersed in that internal customer setting so that they not only had empathy, they had the full understanding of what they really needed by virtue of being immersed. And so I thought, I mean, it’s kind of a great example of how you can do amazing things if, as a solution provider, you get out of your silo and get immersed with those stakeholders and really understand what they’re trying to do.
Jeff Standridge: Yeah. And one of the more complex forms of how empathy plays itself out in the human centered design process is, we tend to assume that all of our customers and stakeholders can tell us what their needs are and can articulate what their needs are. And many times there are these things called latent needs that they can’t really articulate. They can’t really describe, they don’t even know that they have. And we have to go and actually observe them doing the work and ask questions about, well, why did you do this versus why did you do that? Last time you did this, this time you did that. What was the difference? And begin to discover those latent needs on behalf of the client and then validate with them and help them understand what those real needs are.
Jeff Amerine: We heard that from the chief innovation officer at Snap-on tools in another episode, he specifically said, you have to go observe, you have to watch.
Jeff Standridge: That’s right.
Jeff Amerine: To really understand. Because just as you said, sometimes they can’t describe it. They know it’s there, but the words escape them. Whereas if you observe what’s going on, you can gather insights you just can’t get from normal interviews.
Jeff Standridge: Fantastic. So in summary, we’re talking about human centered design. It’s the second stage of the innovation leadership blueprint. Once we define the problem, quantify and qualify the problem we’re trying to solve. Then we begin the process from the customer’s perspective in a very empathetic fashion, designing a solution that solves that specific problem or helps us achieve that opportunity. We continue through the validation process. We enter into the entire design process from this perspective of adding massive value over the status quo today. We’re constantly looking to answer the questions. Is it real? Can we win? Is it worth the effort? Is it technically feasible? And does it impact enough people to be worth the effort from a business perspective? Anything you’d add to that?
Jeff Amerine: Nah, it makes all the difference. It can really save cycle time and avoid wasted effort if you follow this kind of process. It’s critical. If you want to deliver something on time, within budget, and meet user customer stakeholder expectations, this is a key way to go.
Jeff Standridge: Excellent. Next time in a couple of weeks, we’ll be talking about, okay, now, how do you take that solution design and how do you implement it over the long haul to generate sustained results? This has been the Innovation Junkies podcast. Thank you for joining us.
Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now. Please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.