Customer Compromises: Where Innovation Lives

Customer Compromises: Where Innovation Lives

By: Jim Gitney   |     February 27, 2015

Your customers will spawn innovation if you are paying attention.

If you are like many leaders, you remember the great new ideas that were early springboards for your company’s success. For some reason, however, your new products and services “pool” seems to have dried up over the years. What happened? Have you become less creative? Has your organization grown complacent and removed from customers and how your products are used? Perhaps you’ve just been looking in the wrong places.

Effective innovation is all about addressing compromises, those trade-offs that your direct customers or end users have to make in using current products or services. Common concessions include “It’s hard to find,” “I’ve got to buy more than I want to,” “It seems pretty complicated or cumbersome”,“There’s a lot to throw away when I use it,” or “It gets me where I want to go, but it’s not very comfortable.” The places where users have to trade-off “What I really want when I want it” and what they have to settle for is where innovative companies offer solutions that change the game and capture share. For example, Amazon addressed the “Books are too expensive and hard to find” end user inconvenience and publishers’ “It’s costly to stock and distribute all the books people want” challenges by parlaying these into an online shopping service that now supplies books and much more to over 240 million people annually. 3M addressed the “When I want to leave a note I’ve got to use clumsy tape, or wire-edged paper clips, or a bulky stapler” frustration in the 1980s with their very successful Post-itâ Notes product lineup. So, how might you begin in surfacing innovation-worthy compromises as a means for jump-starting new product efforts? Here are a few ideas…

  • Look at the most common customer complaints you have experienced—your customers may be asking for new solutions.
  • Gather your leadership team and spend time brainstorming on the trade-offs customers in your markets endure today.
  • Do a bit of informal research: start with some loyal customers who will be open and appreciate being asked; ideally and if possible, talk also to ex-customers.
  • If any of the above seem fruitful, consider formal, more broadly based research as a source for opportunities.

It’s not too late to rediscover your passion for innovative new products and services. Your customers want them, as do your employees. Look for customer compromises, understand them, and find innovation gold. Subscribe below to Group50’s blog to stay on top of the latest trending topics:


About the author:
Steve Sharp is a senior consultant with Group50® Consulting and heads Group50’s Strategic Execution practice. Steve and the Group50 team are all former executives with market-leading manufacturing and distribution companies who understand what it takes to drive innovation and related strategies, along with other aspects of product management and Sales effectiveness. Group50 has designed a series of strategic assessments, workshops and Strategic Execution tools that enhance business performance. Call us at (909) 949-9083 or send a note to

This entry was posted in Manufacturing and Distribution, Market Effectiveness, Strategic Execution, Weekend Thought, on February 27, 2015

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