Tips on what to do when Your Customers never ask for a Disruptive Idea.
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Tips on what to do when Your Customers never ask for a Disruptive Idea.

As it turns out, your Customers will never ask you for a disruptive idea.

One time Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company was asked how it was possible to make automobiles available, affordable and accessible to the masses at a time when they were limited to the elite of society. He highlighted the power of observation in making the shift possible as opposed to listening to customers for solutions. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” he remarks.

Customers never went to Airbnb asking for homely safe affordable housing.

They did not go to safeboda asking for cheap safe motorcycle rides neither did they make a business case to Uber asking for convenient taxi rides.

Customers never do that sort of stuff. You have to learn how to observe them and create solutions that are anticipated and personal

Case in point: McDonald’s, a number of years ago decided that they needed to increase the sales of their milkshakes. And, as you know, McDonald’s– these are very sophisticated marketing people. They have data about– up the gazoo about anything you need. And they had a demographic profile of the quintessential milkshake customer.

And so they would invite people like me into offices, explain that they were trying to improve the milkshakes so that people will buy more of them. Can you give us any guidance? And the customers would give them very clear guidance. They would then improve the milkshake, and the impact on sales or profits was negligible.

Clayton Christensen -an Innovation Consultant convinced them to let him and his team test the power of observation to which they agreed. Clayton’s team stood in a McDonald’s restaurant for 18 hours one day and just took very careful notes– what time was it that he bought the milkshake at? What was he wearing? Was he alone? Did he buy other food with it? Did he eat the milkshake in the restaurant or get in the car and go off with it?

And it turned out that about half of the milkshakes were sold before 8:30 in the morning. It was the only thing they bought, they were always alone, and they always got in the car and drove off with it.

The observation went on the next morning, this time they positioned themselves outside the restaurant so that we can confront these people as they were emerging with their milkshake.

And they would say, “I’m having a real problem here with your behavior. What job are you trying to get done that cause you to come to McDonald’s to hire a milkshake at 6:30 in the morning?” And then they would struggle to answer the question, we would said, “I’m sorry for a tough question Try this. “Think about the last time you were in the same situation where you needed to do the same job, but you didn’t come here to hire a milkshake from McDonald’s. What did you hire?”

And it turned out, that they all had the same job to do. That is, they had a long and boring drive to work. And they just needed something to have while they were driving to stay engaged with life and not fall asleep. Here is how once customer explained the scenario, “One hand had to be on the wheel, but geez, somebody gave me another hand, and there’s nothing in it. And I just needed something to do while I’m driving. I’m not hungry yet, but I know I’ll be hungry by 10:00. So I also need something that will just go thunk and stay there for the morning. I come here to McDonald’s and hire this milkshake; it is so vicious. It takes 23 minutes to suck it up that thin little straw. What the ingredients are, I don’t care. All I know is that I’m still full at 10 o’clock. And it actually fits right here in this cupholder”

Whether you are McDonalds’ Uber, Airbnb or a startup looking to invent something new you need to use observe the following to aid in your innovation:

  1. The pain of the users or Customers: Safeboda here in Uganda observed the rampant lawlessness on the road and the lack of safety for motorcycle transport users.
  2. The alternative solutions being used:  From the McDonalds’ story we see that the alternatives were doughnuts and bananas but they would never stay long in the stomach

With those two tips you be will on the right track of creating a disruptive solution in your industry like Uber or Safeboda. On the other hand, observing the pain and alternative solutions and using the insights therein to create solutions will increase your revenues just like Mcdonalds’

Observe and take action today!


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