thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

No Limits

By on June 9, 2010

Jump_lrgThere are so many opportunities to develop cool, new ideas for our customers, but most organizations cannot find them because they have limited their vision to the traditional view of the industry they are in. The best opportunities for no-limit ideas undoubtedly originate in completely different systems and disciplines.

Consider biomimicry, for instance. It is an innovation method championed by Janine Benyus (Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature) that designs sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s techniques. Her approaches have allowed organizations to explore “the fertile crescent” between “fields of study that have been kept separate.” (Nature's Operating Instructions). Benyus, for example, serves on the Eco Dream Team at Interface, Inc., a biomimicking carpet company and has helped numerous other organizations in new product development and lowering energy use, eliminating waste and cutting material costs.

Biomimicry is just one of many cross-disciplines to explore. Its beauty is in the asking of questions about what would happen in nature and applying it to the organizational system that connects with customers. It is not mechanistic and linear. Instead, it is humanistic and expansive. It creates a community that educates separate disciplines about practices that apply in their own worlds. For example, cell biologists, knowing that every cell in our body is a sophisticated, three-dimensional computer, have helped computer scientists develop a whole new paradigm for computing that improves on traditional computers’ pattern recognition and adaptation.

“Seeing the world differently changes everything” wrote Christine Finn (Artifacts: An Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley). To advance customer-centricity, there are so many fields to draw from—philosophy, architecture, cooking, astronomy—in addition to nature. They expand our views of what is possible from analytic, industry-specific approaches to a deeper understanding products and processes through a synthesis of ideas generated from other disciplines.

When knowledge is integrated, we see everything more fully. Rather than a “singular structure,” (Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, This Will Change Everything) it exposes the many dimensions of the experience that we encounter. The effect is even more powerful when the higher-level outcomes are done on behalf of our customers. This synthesis will help your organizaton implement unique ideas faster than your competition.

Your customers will love you (not just like you, not just buy from you) when you are not limited to what the others believe is possible. You have the ability to create new systems by stretching your mind to look broadly across many disciplines for creative solutions that apply to your customers' needs. You will be amazed at what you will discover and apply to your own products and services.

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One Response to “No Limits”

  1. Lee Drake says:

    I think one of the keys to taking ideas that are innovative within your organization and turning them into actual products is knowing what you're good at and partnering with other organizations to actually deliver and develop the idea if the implementation is not your core competency. Partnering can be key to retaining your focus on your core strengths, but spinning off your interesting ideas and potentially turning them into money making projects.

    I think many companies have niche ideas or niche solutions to problems that never get implemented outside the company because the implementation itself is outside their core competency.

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