Design management journal spring 1999 43 design

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DESIGN MANAGEMENT JOURNAL SPRING 1999 43 DESIGN MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR THE CUSTOMER ENCOUNTER NEEDFINDING: THE WHY AND HOW OF UNCOVERING PEOPLE S NEEDS Conclusion Companies face constant pressure from competitors to improve their offerings. This has pushed product development organizations to optimize their pro- cesses around incremental improvement. As the traditional link between a company and its custom- ers, marketing professionals have asked end users to articulate opportunities for immediate improve- ment. Design and engineering has then been char- tered to make these improvements real. This ap- proach has had notable success in industries in which linear improvements in performance faster, smaller, cheaper, using less power, and so forth are most desired. However, this approach breaks down when com- panies seek to completely rewrite a product s speci- fications or create something entirely new. While
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people can easily express their preferences among a set of known options, solutions that aren t immedi- ately apparent can go unvoiced. Companies can find that their customers express a desire for an im- provement only after a competitor has created it. This forces marketing into the reactive role of ask- ing for things that the competition already has. De- velopers, in turn, find themselves working toward a deadline that has already passed. When linear improvements fail to provide a decisive advantage, new opportunities must be discovered in advance. Needfinding offers product developers a Needfinding offers product developers a different dynamic for understanding customers, one that has a role for both marketers and designers different dynamic for under- standing customers, one that has a role for both marketers and designers. The methodol- ogy outlined here is a broad overview of how those involved in product develop- ment can preemptively discover opportunities for competitive advantage. Needfinding is not the exclusive territory of any one discipline; both marketers and designers need to work to- gether to discover customers needs. These needs, in turn, suggest areas of innovation for designers, as well as new markets that await development. The result is a dialogue between company and customer rather than between marketing and design. In this way, both groups can work together to create innovative new solutions and leap past competitors devoted to incremental change. l (Reprint #99102PAT37)
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