I think the terms Product Development, Product Marketing and Product Managers have become obsolete. This is not new thinking on my part, see past blog posts: Do You Know the Right Job For Your Products? or Will Product Managers embrace Open Innovation? or not even, so I can promote Lean Service Design.
If you have not been under a rock in Product Development, you will recognize how Eric Ries’s, The Lean Startup has been all about Customer Development and product/market fit. The classic “Pivot” may be more about adjusting product to fit market than it is market to fit product.
Product and customer characteristics are poor indicators of customer behavior, because from the customer’s perspective that is not how markets are structured. Customers’ purchase decisions don’t necessarily conform to those of the “average” customer in their demographic; nor do they confine the search for solutions within a product category. Rather, customers just find themselves needing to get things done. When customers find that they need to get a job done, they “hire” products or services to do the job. This means that marketers need to understand the jobs that arise in customers’ lives for which their products might be hired. Most of the “home runs” of marketing history were hit by marketers who saw the world this way. The “strike outs” of marketing history, in contrast, generally have been the result of focusing on developing products with better features and functions or of attempting to decipher what the average customer in a demographic wants.
Thomas Koulopoulos on a Fast Company blog post said:
We are at the tail end of an era that has focused almost entirely on the innovation of products and services, and we are at the beginning of a new era that focuses on the innovation of what I like to call “behavioral business models.” These models go beyond asking how we can make what we make better and cheaper, or asking how we can do what we do faster. They are about asking why we do what we do to begin with. And the question of why is almost always tied to the question of how markets behave.
He goes on to say:
The greatest shift in the way we view innovation will be that the innovation surrounding behavior will need to be as continuous a process as the innovation of products has been over the last hundred years. The greatest shift in the way we view innovation will be that the innovation surrounding behavior will need to be as continuous a process as the innovation of products has been over the last hundred years. It’s here that the greatest payback and value of innovation in the cloud has yet to be fully understood and exploited.
If you are reader of this blog, you know that I believe most of us are defined not by their products but the services they offer. Let’s admit it, your product has zero value in it. You cannot build value or even create it through clever marketing. Value is only created when a customer puts it into use. This is Service Dominant Logic Thinking (Vargo and Lusch (2006).
The internal thinking of product development hinders us more than what we care to think. If we viewed our products as “enablers of use” or in SD-Logic the “Value in use” the opportunities for development and innovation would skyrocket. In many Lean Organizations there are no longer Product Managers, they are Value Stream Managers. Why do we continue with Product Developers or Product Development? Should we not have Value Development or Value Stream Developers? I know you may think it is just a word thing, but it isn’t. When people think about products, they automatically internalized their thoughts. Think about where you work and depict a product or service. Do you picture it in use? Now think about something you own. Do you think about it being used?
What if we started thinking about it from the perspective that we own this product. If we begin viewing first how our customers use our products and how we might extend that use or make it easier. Maybe, we need a lesson on Empathy Development? Maybe, we all need to use the products we work for?