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"The book contains valuable insights for managing innovators." --Fort Worth Star-Telegram
CEO Refresher The Best Books of 2007
Product innovation is the key to business growth. But many books deal with innovation from the business process view alone, or confuse innovation with creativity. Written by an innovation expert whose products generate more than one billion dollars in annual revenue, Something Really New introduces a straightforward but powerful framework for creating exciting new product and service concepts ... simply by ...
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CEO Refresher The Best Books of 2007
Product innovation is the key to business growth. But many books deal with innovation from the business process view alone, or confuse innovation with creativity. Written by an innovation expert whose products generate more than one billion dollars in annual revenue, Something Really New introduces a straightforward but powerful framework for creating exciting new product and service concepts ... simply by asking three essential questions.
From an electronic hotel kiosk that provides return airline boarding passes for guests, to something as mundane as the evolution of the toaster, the book provides entertaining, illuminating examples that show how to determine what customer needs aren’t being met, using simple methods to arrive at revolutionary conclusions. For example, “What is a product really used for?” The question may seem elementary, but the right answer is far from obvious. This and other key questions demonstrate how readers can move beyond mere market research to get to the root of real innovation. Practical and eye-opening, this book shows companies how to take the kind of startling leaps that will leave their competition in the dust.
"The book contains valuable insights for managing innovators." --Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Hauptly, an executive in new product development for Westlaw, the online legal research company, examines the process of identifying product innovation potential. In the world of product and service innovation, he asserts, utility is the driving force, and the key to successful product innovation is to enhance usefulness. Hauptly identifies three questions aimed at finding where customers are expending resources unnecessarily, allowing a manufacturer or service provider to help reduce those inefficiencies. These questions-"what tasks is the product really used for"; "when I know what a product is really used for, are there any steps that I can remove from the task"; and "what tasks are the very next tasks that the customer will want to perform after using my product"-get to the heart of driving innovation. In addition, he details how to navigate potential detours, such as finding the task beneath the function, putting everything together and dealing with the people challenges inherent in any organization. Hauptly's simple and straightforward approach will enable organizations to quickly and inexpensively create new products and services that have real value. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
But First You Have
to Ask the Right
ONE SUNDAY IN 2006, THE NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD PUZzle
offered the following clue for a five-letter word: ‘‘Son of
Henry and father of Henry II.’’ I passed by the clue until I
had a letter entered from another clue. The word began with
‘‘E.’’Well, that made no sense. King Henry of England surely
had a son with a common English name, and I could think
of none that began with E and was five letters long.
Aha, I thought, I’ve been fooled. It’s not English monarchs
we are talking about here, but French or Portuguese
(think Prince Henry the Navigator) monarchs. I am not an
expert on common names or monarchical names in either nation,
so I waited until I had another letter. The word ended
with ‘‘L.’’ Huh? What kind of name is this? I hadn’t a clue.
Actually, I did have a clue. But I was reading it wrong.
One more letter added: ED L.
Now I knew, but only because I grew up in the 1950s and
recalled that the Ford Motor Company’s disastrous car, the
Edsel, was named after a member of the Ford family, Edsel
Ford—the son of Henry Ford and the father of Henry Ford II.
Faced with a problem on which I had an incomplete set
of facts (as we almost always are), I asked the wrong question.
Because I asked the wrong question, I could not come up
with the right answer. Innovators have to do better than that.
They are doing their job right when they ask the right question
But that’s hindsight, you say. ‘‘You knew it was the wrong
question once you had the right answer. I want to ask the
right question first and not waste my time and my company’s
resources chasing after the answer to the wrong question.’’
Fair enough. And there is a method that will help you
achieve that goal, but let us be sure that we understand the
All of us start from the comfortable. I am familiar with
English history, so when I was faced with a question about
two persons named Henry and Henry II, I went to where I
was comfortable: England.1 That’s a natural reaction, and
very often it will lead us to a right result. But not always.
Getting to the Right Question
To get to the right question more certainly, we have to get
outside our own skins and take a detached view of the question.
That is actually very hard to do. Here’s why.
When faced with a question like the crossword clue, people
tend to break down into three different types.
People of the first type take the question literally, go into
their comfort area, and come up with a single possible answer
(e.g., it must be the father of King Henry II of England).
Once they reach that answer, all other options are precluded.
This type of person, upon learning that Henry II was actually
the son of Geoffrey of Anjou, assumes that the crossword editor
has made a mistake and puts down the puzzle in selfrighteous
annoyance. She may even write a letter to the
People of the second type acknowledge at some level that
there may be several ways of approaching the problem, but
believe that the odds heavily favor the one that they (coincidentally)
are most comfortable with. However, upon being
faced with an impossible answer (Geoffrey does not fit in five
spaces on the puzzle and does not begin with E), these people
will realize that there is a trick involved and will start methodically
pursuing the other options in the order that is most
comfortable. Eventually they will sort out the result.
People of the third type make no assumptions at all about
the question. These people look at the question and say,
‘‘Henry? Which Henry? Hmmm. They are trying to pull a
fast one on me here. They are trying to make me jump to a
conclusion that it is the comfortable Henry. I won’t do that.
What are the other options?’’
The first group of people will never innovate. They never
ask the right question except by blind luck. We will call them
Linear People. They move methodically from step to step,
but they are unconcerned about the possibility that their
reasoning path started with a false assumption and are unlikely
to reexamine that assumption. Such people are often
very good at math.
People in the second group may innovate, but they will
get there later than the competition. Let us label them Eventual
Innovators. This is not a put-down. These people are the
heart and soul of any innovation activity because there are so
few people in the third category. Eventual Innovators start
with assumptions but, when faced with empirical weaknesses
in those assumptions, will start over. Many scientists fall into
People in the third group, whom I will call Unassuming
Persons, can innovate constantly. They really have no strong
assumptions. That makes them curious about everything, and
they have a sense of endless wonder. There are not many Unassuming
Persons out there because very few people are actually
able to be that detached from the assumptions that help
us all get through life. It is not surprising to discover that
these people often have backgrounds in the arts.
So most innovators will fall into the second category.
These people need to develop a regular habit of challenging
the conventional wisdom. This takes energy and courage, but
it takes a process as well.
This book gives three ‘‘right’’ questions, and the Eventual
Innovators should put these questions on a wall in their office
because they must constantly remind themselves of the need
to get back to basics and confront these questions, just as was
necessary in the crossword problem. Getting into the habit of
asking these ‘‘right’’ questions will save time and effort and
dollars. But that is not the end of the story.
Asking the right question is not enough. It is necessary,
but not sufficient. To get things right, we have to have the
Finding the Right Answers
Let us take the question from Step 1: What tasks is the product
really used for? It is entirely possible to answer that question
incorrectly. Someone could still look at a faucet and answer
it by saying, ‘‘Customers use this to get water.’’ We know
from Chapter 2 that they actually use kitchen faucets to:
• Wash hands.
• Wash dishes.
• Wash food.
• Obtain specific amounts of water for cooking.
But getting to those options required some work on our
part. We had to look at a kitchen faucet and try to make the
distinction between functions and tasks. We had to step back
from our own biases and assumptions and look at something
we had seen a million times in a brand new light. We might
have done that work well, or we might have done it poorly.
How can we know we have gotten to the right answer?
Actually, there are two ways we can know: obviousness
and observation. Let us take a look at each.
If you want to innovate, obvious answers to the questions
asked in this book are never true. Let me repeat that. If you
want to innovate, obvious answers to the questions asked in
this book are never true. Not once. Under no circumstances.
The obvious answer will always reflect the existing paradigm.
If it is obvious, it is obvious because it fits neatly into
the way we view the world. It may extend the product in
some way. It may make water flow faster or make it shut off
automatically after a certain period of time. Those changes
would be positive and would add slightly to the product’s
value, but again, these are more mutations than innovations.
You, as an innovator, want to move beyond these types of
changes into a complete rethinking of the product so that it
serves its tasks with maximum efficiency, not just with marginal
improvement. Why describe your product as ‘‘better’’
when you can describe it as ‘‘best’’?
Let us look at an example. Assume that the year is 1960
or so and you are running the Subway Token Department
for the New York City Transit Authority. You are conscientious
about your work, and you decide to ask customers for
their opinions on your subway tokens. Well, it turns out that
they do not like your dime-sized tokens. It is worse than that:
They hate your tokens. Your tokens are so small that they get
lost in pockets and purses. You have to keep them separate
from your coins or else you will be sorting through dimes and
pennies to pull out a token. They slip from your hand when
you are getting ready to put them in the slot. You have to
wait in line to buy them. There is really nothing good to be
said about these tokens.
What can you do? The quick fix (and the one that was
actually used starting in 1970) is to change the size of the
token. Make it big enough to stick out in a pocket full of
change and easier to grasp at the same time. This is the obvious
solution, and it suffers from all the characteristics of obvious
solutions. It is not an innovation; it is merely a design
change along the path of the existing paradigm. Customers
will be somewhat happier because the change will reduce
some of their problems. But unless you give a token a twoinch
diameter, the larger tokens will still be somewhat difficult
to distinguish, and you will still have to wait in line to
buy them. They make the task of entering the subway somewhat
more efficient, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
The innovative answer is to say that the problem is with
tokens themselves. They are inherently like coins, and so they
will always be confusing. They are good for only one trip,
and so you will frequently need to buy more. Moreover, they
limit your pricing structure to ‘‘one token fits all.’’
When we look at the task involved and reject the obvious
solution, we are forced to ask ourselves, ‘‘How would I do
this in a world without tokens? How can I avoid coinlike
objects, allow multiple trips with the same entry device, and,
ideally, give myself more pricing flexibility?’’ The innovative
answer (implemented in 1976 in theWashington, D.C., Metro
and, finally, in 2003 in New York) is a debit card. It is easy to
buy and provides for many trips. It is not going to be confused
with a coin, and it allows an infinite variety of pricing
options. Users save time and effort. The subway system does
so as well: It employs fewer people since it does not have to
sell and collect tokens anymore.2
But this answer, this innovation, did not take place and
could not take place until the paradigm was shifted, until the
underlying assumption was abandoned. With subway tokens,
the underlying assumption was that the problem was in the
design of the tokens. In fact, the problem was with the use of
tokens as a means of gaining entry to the subway. The user
wanted to complete the task of getting on a train, but the
product owners were focused on something entirely different—
optimizing the design of subway tokens.
So the obvious is not the innovative. But it should not be
totally discarded. As we will see later on in Chapter 10, ‘‘The
Human Factor,’’ you can draw a distinction between BIG innovations
and small innovations. If enough small innovations
are added to a product, they may make a significant change
in the value proposition, so these innovations are not to be
ignored. But we get further, faster with touchdowns than
with field goals, so when you see an obvious improvement,
do not settle for it. The obvious should be the fallback position,
not the starting position.
So much of innovation has to do with observation. If we see
someone filling a pot with water from a kitchen faucet and
our observation is, ‘‘Faucets supply water,’’ we have no place
to go. But if we stop and say, ‘‘What is really going on here?
What is this person trying to accomplish? How can I help
him accomplish that?’’ then we have a genuine chance of
breaking through to new ground.
Just as observation is a key element of innovative ideas, so
too is it the best testing ground for those ideas because reality
is the best testing ground for almost anything. Does your answer
to the question fit with what people actually do? Can
you observe the behavior of people using your product and
see if your answer is correct? Does your innovation solve old
problems, but create new ones?
Let us go back to our kitchen faucet. One of the proposed
innovations was premeasured water. Push a button once for
one cup, twice for two cups, and so on. That sounds right,
but its correctness depends on whether people actually do
things the way they are supposed to do them.
The recipe calls for three cups of water. Does the cook
actually measure three cups, or does she simply put roughly
three cups of water into the pot? If the measurement for one
recipe is rough, is that true of all or most recipes?
I make bread by hand. I make rough measurements of
my flour and water because as I knead the bread by hand, I
know from a touch trained through making hundreds of
loaves of bread whether more water or more flour is needed.
In that case, rough measurements are fine. If, on the other
hand, I made bread by machine, I would measure quite precisely
because the ratio is important and I would have no
chance to adjust it once the machine starts kneading.
So if one is making bread by machine or cooking rice
(which does require precise measurement), the exact amount
of water may matter. But if one is making pasta, a little extra
water probably will not hurt anything. And if a little extra
water won’t hurt anything, the value of our innovation is low.
If we observe enough cooks preparing enough recipes, we
will begin to get a sense of whether our proposed innovation
makes sense. Does it add value because it would be used all
the time by a good percentage of the potential users? Or is it
just a ‘‘feature’’ that may help to sell the product but won’t
actually be used (or valued) much in the end?
This latter situation arises quite often. An innovation is
made that is undeniably superior to the old way of doing
things. But the old behavior is deeply ingrained and well understood,
so the motivation to change one’s behavior has to
be very high for change to actually take place.
Some years ago, a software product that I was managing
moved from green dots on a black screen to a graphical user
interface (GUI). Over the next few years, all new development
was done in the GUI, but some customers still stuck to
the earlier version. Eventually the day came when we had to
pull the plug on that old product. It would strain your credulity
if I described the outpouring of anger and anguish we
received over that decision—even though we were offering
the users something that was enormously superior at absolutely
no cost to them. People who have gotten used to doing
things a certain way are often uninterested in investing in
change, and a change that may seem easy for the innovator
may in fact be quite difficult for the user who is a linear
Observation will tell you whether you have a problem
here or not. And observation does not have to be expensive.
Prototyping can usually be done inexpensively. Even describing
an innovation or using good drawings can evoke a reaction
from users. That reaction may tell you whether it is wise
to invest more funds in the innovation or not. If you do invest
more and can create a working model or prototype, then you
can engage in more objective observations. The users will tell
you whether they like the innovation or not and whether they
would actually use it or not. That observed information is a
lot more valuable than what comes out of most focus groups
or surveys. It allows the product developer to see at once what
is good and what is bad about an idea. It can be the springboard
for many other ideas as well.
Of course, what is being described here is the scientific
method. You develop a thesis. Then you create an experiment
to test the thesis. You observe the results of the experiment
and compare them to the thesis. You publish the details of
your experiment and its results. Then you gather criticism of
your experiment from others. Finally, you see whether the
experiment can be duplicated by others with the same result.
The great virtue of the scientific method is its objectivity.
If the experiment proves the thesis to be false, the scientist
moves on. Would that this were so in the world of product
If you have done product development work for any period
of time, you will have seen developers who were so taken
by their own idea that they:
1. Did not test at all.
2. Tested in such a way as to ensure that the results
matched the thesis.
3. Ignored the negative results and latched on firmly to
some isolated positive statements.
4. Transferred learnings from another market to a new
one without validating them in the new one.
5. Did all of the above and created a great press release
Such shenanigans are entirely understandable. They are
usually defended by statements like, ‘‘I have been in this market
for 10 years, and I know this market’’ or some other form
But they can lead to ridiculous results. I have a colleague
who is legally blind. He performs a highly technical job
through the use of special equipment. For instance, he has a
computer screen that enlarges letters many times. He recently
informed me that there was a new cell phone available for
people in his situation. It had large keys and a larger screen,
and it magnified the characters on the screen.
This was great. Some product developer somewhere had
recognized that there was a market that was not being served
and moved in to serve it. Just one thing: It came equipped
with a camera. Even the briefest of test periods would have
shown that there are not a lot of blind photographers, so the
camera was superfluous, and leaving it out would have saved
the manufacturer and the buyer a few bucks.
This is a serious problem, and it is a cultural problem.
Cultural problems are particularly intractable, but these problems
must be confronted. It is very rare that the financial decision
to create a new product is based on deep knowledge of
the market research. It is more often based on a summary
prepared by the product advocate. The fox not only guards
the henhouse, but is the only source that management has for
what is going on in it.
Let’s Get Started 1
Part One: Three Simple Steps to Innovation
Money Is the Root of All Innovation 13
Step 1: Fixing the Faucet 19
But First You Have to Ask the Right Question 37
Mutation or Innovation? 53
Step 2: Making Life Simpler 69
Making Innovation Happen 89
Step 3: Taking It to the Next Level 99
Spotlight on Services 117
Putting All the Pieces Together 137
Part Two: The Context of Innovation: People,
Management, and Organization
The Human Factor 153
Beating the Bureaucrats 165
Straightening Out the Rest of the Company 177
Sample Answers to InnovationWorkout 3 191
More InnovationWorkouts 195
Suggested Reading 221
About the Author 229
Posted July 11, 2008
Too many books on innovation get bogged down in theory or assume that coming up with new ideas is both the point of innovation and its most important step. In contrast, Denis J. Hauptly cuts through the nonsense with a focus on the customer. Originality, in and of itself, isn¿t enough, Hauptly says. He encourages innovation that results in useful, beautiful, interesting and profitable products, providing ideas and procedures you can use right away. He also provides ¿innovation workouts¿ that ask you to come up with products that solve common problems, and a list of readings. His book could be better organized, but getAbstract recommends it to product developers, for whom it will provide useful tools, and marketers, who must deal with a culture intoxicated by the next big thing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.