“I’ve got a problem” the innovation leader admitted. “Two years ago a major customer suggested a product idea to an executive in our company. The idea would use our unique technology. The customer said developing the idea would result in a key part of a new product for their marketplace.
After hard work we met their first needs, Then they made significant changes in the needs. We met those. Now they’ve changed needs again.
What’s going on here? This is a politically sensitive issue. How do I find out in a way that doesn’t cause trouble with the customer or our executive?”
Shading the truth, consciously or unconsciously, is common in business (2012, Askenas)
Doubts about the marketplace are plentiful in prospective customers’ thought-worlds. Some customers believe it’s proper to shade the truth to sell developers on devoting people, time, and money to commercialize the idea.
Two politically sensitive situations where prospective customers shade the truth:
- The customer’s marketplace gatekeeper ignores or does not know the truth of marketplace value to end-users.
- The product idea fulfills, in a unique way, a valuable hidden need in the customer’s marketplace. The customer is concerned that developers, learning the truth will charge a premium price for the product developed from the idea.
For the first situation, discovering the truth about the marketplace prevents waste of developer’s time, and money. For the second situation, discovering the truth may lead to a new product with exceptional profit.
Discovering truth shading
To gain the benefits of resolving the above situations and avoid to political risks. developers should gather reliable marketplace information from interviews with 25-40 primary sources. In analyzing the data, the central limit theorem of statistics helps validate the assumption that the customer shaded the truth (2015, Castellion).
As an external expert, I’ve completed seventeen client projects where the two situations were major problems. Analysis of interviews with primary sources included a set of practical choices for dialogue with the developers’ executives on how to communicate the analysis’ results to the customer. In these seventeen projects, anonymity and neutrality in information gathering and analysis, paid off in positive outcomes for the client with the customer.
(2012) Ashkenas, R. Why We Don’t Always Tell The Truth Harvard Business Review [https://hbr.org/2012/02/why-we-dont-always-tell-the-tr/( Accessed 6/16/15)]
(2015) Castellion, G. Aligning Developers’ and Customers’ Thought-Worlds http://www.georgecastellion.com