Exercises in Innovation #4: Fully test prototypes pre-launch

In this thought experiment, try to imagine every way that customers could use your product in the wrong way. Really let your imagination go, and it still may not be enough.

Sometimes customers don’t know the truth, but other times they aren’t able to answer truthfully. The perfect example involves a company I met with that built an ingenious way to recycle water from hot showers in the home. The closed-loop system reduced water consumption per shower by up to 90 percent and conserved energy required to heat the water by up to 80 percent, saving thousands of dollars per household on utility costs while reducing the strain on the world’s water tables. It was a win-win for consumers and for the planet.

The problems began after roll out. Customer began returning the systems and complaining that the water filters weren’t working. After expensive investigations and filter testing, they found that a large percentage of customers were using the shower as a urinal. Not a single customer admitted that this was the problem. They couldn’t bring themselves to admit it.

The company is still in operation and the filters have been extensively redesigned, at an enormous expense. You’ve got to have anthropologists involved in every stage, from design to hypothesis testing to roll out.

Even if it slows down time to market, it’s better to find out what could go wrong before you have a crisis on your hands.

Look out for exercise #5.

Ps. Download the complete paper here Ds.