homer simpson on car machine

Innovating the product design and development process

Today, organizations want to be recognized as “innovative” and “cutting edge” by their customers, and stakeholders. Influenced by dramatic changes in the economy, technology and social trends, leading organizations want to change the rules of how products are created, produced and brought to market. In order to do so, they need to acknowledge the strong role that customer insight plays not just after a product has been launched but also during the product design and development process.

Customers are actively participating in the conversation about their favorite products and brands. This means products and services cannot be developed and delivered products in a vacuum. Organizations can no longer design, build and market what they “think” customers want based on previous experience, or market data gathered through static traditional methods. Above all making decisions on expert ‘hunches’ or ‘shots in the dark’ will no longer suffice!

What the “Homer” Car teaches us about poor product design and development

‘Build it and they will come.’ This quote has been used to describe how a vision can turn into reality. There are many documented cases where businesses, products and services were built by entrepreneurs, inventors and industrialists that failed. In the case of new product design and development this approach does not automatically product design and developmentlead to desired results. Despite the sheer amount of customer insight that is available to product managers and their teams, organizations still fail to leverage this insight to create innovative products that customers want. Instead, they rely on “assumptions” of what the market wants or worse yet on what their internal experts tell them the market needs. This approach greatly increases the risk of bringing to market products and services that do not align with customer demands and needs—they build it, but nobody comes! The famous “Homer” car is a both a humorous and excellent example of a product failure. Even though, many other authors use this example, the Homer car analogy is perfect to illustrate poor execution in the product design and development process.

In one of the greatest Simpson’s episodes, Homer’s brother, who works for a well-recognized car company, commissions Homer to build the car of “the average man”. The end result is a grotesque, tacky car with many useless features such as glass domes for both for the driver, and passengers or tail fins. Not surprisingly, with this many non-appealing product features, the product ultimately fails and ‘drives’ homer’s brother and his company out of business.

In his article, “Homer Simpson, product manager”, Tom Grant of Forrester Blog describes the “Homer car” quite poignantly: “The Homer is a metaphor for product design gone wrong. Too many things that the customer might want, but really doesn’t need, at a price that no one wants to pay.”

Avoiding the ‘build it and they will come’ syndrome
Homer’s brother built a car that nobody wanted because he failed to leverage customer insight as an integral metric for his new product design and development initiative. Don’t follow this narrow path! Homer and his brother could have based their product strategy on real customer insight to develop and deliver a customer-centric car that would succeed in the marketplace. Your customers have important insight that can help you make the most impactful marketing, product development and service decisions. If you aren’t making product design and development decisions based on what your customers want, you are wasting resources and, most likely, losing valuable customers.

Product design and development simplified: OneDesk

OneDesk is the only product development application with a complete set of tools that allow you to effectively manage your entire product development process from start to finish. These powerful tools help you take the guesswork out of the development process and base your product strategy on real customer insight. This means you will greatly increase the development and delivery of customer-centric products that succeed in the marketplace and grow your business. By using OneDesk to leverage customer insight, Homer and his brother would have been more successful in building a car that customers wanted. You can avoid making the same mistake. Use OneDesk’s tools to base your product strategy on real customer insight and ensure that you develop and deliver customer-centric products that succeed in your marketplace.

We want to know: What role does customer insight play in your product design and development process?

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