Tony Ulwick is the pioneer of jobs-to-be-done theory and the inventor of Outcome-Driven Innovation. His work has helped the world’s leading companies launch win-ning products and services with a success rate that is five times the industry aver-age. His best-selling book, “What Customers Want,” and his articles in the Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review have been cited in hundreds of publications. His work has defined a new era in customer-centric innovation.

Strategyn Founder and CEO, Inventor, Author and Innovation Thought Leader

Tony Ulwick

Tony Ulwick

Strategyn

How important is culture for corporate innovation?

I think a culture of corporate innovation as it’s typically conceived is pretty unimportant. Many company managers believe, "Everyone's responsible for innovation,” and that “We need to create an environment that fosters innovation.” They talk about the need to encourage innovation by setting up a risk-free environment and making people feel that it's okay to fail. They're focused on trying to motivate people and encourage ideas.
This is misguided because people are already naturally innovative, they're inventive, they're problem-solvers. They're doing a great job at generating ideas and innovating—but maybe not around the challenges that are most important to their customers. This is the crux of the issue with innovation culture.
Building a culture of innovation, in my view, isn’t about providing an innovation-friendly environment. It's about providing the right customer insights—the right information and data—to the people who need it, when they need it. Furthermore, this responsibility lies with management, not with “everybody.” Management has to be responsible for providing employees with the information they need to innovate—and most of them don't recognize this responsibility.
What management often fails to realize is that the key ingredient for innovation is not ideas. The key ingredient for innovation is a clear and shared understanding of the customer's unmet needs. Most management teams do very little to make sure the organization has a shared, common understanding of customer needs. In fact, the biggest problem with innovation is that 95% of product teams have no agreement as to what a customer need even is—never mind what those customer needs are and which needs are unmet.
Why is this such a common situation? Many companies [ ... ]

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