I have led many innovation projects over the last 17 years and I have come to understand that a large number of new product development projects go south because of poor definition and/or lack of customer understanding.

A good way to avoid this problem and ensure a decent start to a project is by beginning with the end in mind.

Before we start any work, we like to ask a few questions of our client to better understand his business objectives and his constraints. That allows us to better define project risks and come up with an improved project strategy as a result.

The questions we ask include:

  • What are your customers' current work flow and pain points?
  • Do you know the ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) of your customer's work flow? (For more information on ZMOT, check out this

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  • How does your product compare to your competition's products?
  • How has your product usage changed over time?
  • How will you measure the success or failure of this project? What needs to be achieved in order to consider the project a success?

Once we determine the answers to these questions, we are in a better position to define the final goal and the best path to success. This allows us to choose the techniques required to reach that goal and the right customer segment to target.

Many consultants have one toolbox and they will apply it to every company whether this is the best process for your need or not. You know the saying, when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail! Make sure your innovation process is geared toward creating solutions that work for your company, not your competitor’s.

In conclusion, before you start the process, invest in properly defining the problem and the desired outcome. The best way to do this is by speaking to your customers early on, so you know what you are aiming for. Then keep your desired end result in mind at every stage of the innovation process, so you reach that goal via the straightest path.

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.