Aligning or misaligning with the market: what is the key to successfully innovating?

Innovation is the life blood for companies’ survival and growth. As a result, researchers and practitioners have always wondered: “What makes a product successful?”.  

One of the answers is surely this: listen to the market and align with it. Try to understand consumers’ needs and incorporate their voice into the innovation process. However, the market is dynamic and consumers’ needs constantly change. Thus, a proactive approach that anticipates these changes might be actually beneficial and so also a method able to support companies in this proactive approach.

In our research we develop and test a new method that helps companies in exploring the potential of mis-aligning with the market. As Henry Ford seems to have stated “if I had asked people what they wanted they would have told me faster horses”. By misaligning with the current market (at that time), he introduced one of the most radical innovations of all time, the car.

In our paper we propose a method, named as “MUD” (Misalignments Users-Designers) to 1) investigate designers’ and users’ perspective on the same innovation and identify where these perspectives start to deviate and 2) to support companies in exploring the value of these deviations and misalignments, as informative, beneficial and inspirational aspects of the innovation process.

MUD method

Through a long journey across Europe (Germany, The Netherlands, France, Italy and Greece) we interview designers and users of several food-packaging innovations and validate the MUD method (and its 4 stages). We show how designers’ goals, set as important specifications in the innovation process, are translated into an offer of benefits for the users and, ultimately, into a set of physical features (or cues). On the other side, we investigate how users perceive the developed product cues and which benefits and goals the new product conveys. We compare designers’ and users’ perspectives and find a series of systematic misalignments. Finally, we guide the companies and their designers to explore the identified misalignments, to reflect on their causes, on the implications for the innovation process and on how to strategically handle each of them.

To know more, read our paper, recently published in the Journal of Technovation: Granato, G., Fischer, A.R.H., van Trijp, H.C.M. (2021).“Misalignments between users and designers as source of inspiration: a novel hybrid method for physical new product development”. Technovation. Online publication: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.technovation.2021.102391.

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