Most successful innovations look obvious once they are established but were not so beforehand. Who needed an iPad before it was invented? We already had smartphones and netbook computers. There was no demand for a hybrid product in this sector yet the new product took the world by storm.
I went for a walk in the park and noticed that most of the people who were walking their dogs were using ball throwers. We had a dog for many years and in all that time I threw balls and sticks for it and was never aware of any need for a ball thrower. I guess that if you had asked 1000 dog owners what problems or needs they had in relation to their dog they would have come up with a 100 things before anyone thought of a ball thrower. Yet now every other dog owner has one. When anyone can throw a ball why do people need ball throwers? Well they do offer some benefits. They allow you to pick up the ball without getting your hand dirty. You can flick the ball further than with an overarm throw. And many women seem to find throwing a little challenging so they are convenient. This inexpensive product is exploiting a need that most customers did not know they had.
The same goes for many other products and services. There are countless opportunities for new products and services that customers are not aware they need.
How can you anticipate needs that customer surveys cannot reveal? The best ways are by watching users and seeing what they do and what problems or difficulties they encounter. How can you make every stage of the process easier for them? Whether it is walking a dog or outsourcing the building of a nuclear power station there are always ways to make things easier. In 10 years time we will all be using goods and services that no-one has thought of yet. Just like the ball thrower for dog walkers.
This post was previously published on Destination Innovation and is republished here with permission from the author.
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