Remove suds-clog from your new product pipeline

Too much detergent added before starting the washing clogs the machine with suds. Too many ideas, unaligned with strategy and poorly understood from the customers’ viewpoint, clog new product pipelines.

What do you need to unclog the pipeline?

Two tools — Focus and Investigate —have been put into practice by leading business units to unclog their pipelines. 1, 2


Leading business units (See Best vs. Rest in 2004 below) focus on achieving success and not speed. They start each new product project with a strategy-setting activity before moving out of their front end “Identify opportunities and generate ideas” stage. Best business units move with an average of 4 ideas for later development stages. Rest business units leave with 8 ideas — twice as many –for later stages.


Best business units make sure they’re solving an important problem causing pain for potential customers before moving out of the front end. Their investigation develops an understanding of these customers’ unsatisfied wants, needs, and wishes. Customers are not asked, “What do you want?” Rather Best business units investigate the simple but powerful question “What job is the customer struggling to get done?”. 3

Best vs. Rest … 2004 study

The 782 business units in the 2004 study were separated into the Best performers (24% of the full sample) and the Rest performers. Best performers were those business units that were: 1. In the top third of their industry in new product success, 2. Above the mean in NPD program success, and 3. Above the mean in sales-profit success from NPD. Best performers comprised 24% of the full sample. The new product success rate for the Best performers was 74%; for the Rest performers it was 54%.  A similar range in new product success rate was seen for Best and Rest performers within each industry in the total sample.

Let’s talk about removing suds-clog from your new product pipeline

Eliciting an understanding of “What job is the customer struggling to get done?” from potential customers before leaving the front end of new product development helps remove suds-clog.

Elicitation unearths deep understanding on, for example …

  • The most desirable set of customers.
  • The key lead users and early adopters in this set.
  • The job they want your product idea to do.
  • Why they will use your idea to solve their problem

Advantages of telephone elicitation conversations

 Quick and cost-effective compared to face-to-face

Prospective customers are …

  • Easier to reach
  • Are more open
  • Surface more data and information on why they will use your idea

1. Griffin, A. (1997). “PDMA research on new product development practices: updating trends and benchmarking best practices” Journal of Product Innovation Management, 14 (6) 429-458

2. Adams, M. 2004 “Findings from the PDMA Research Foundation CPAS Benchmarking…

3. Anthony, S. (2012) The Little Black Book of Innovation: How It Works, How To Do It Boston: Harvard Business School Corporation