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Why your customer is the most valuable person on your innovation team

Steven Carr  |  November 21, 2019

Every organization operates differently, but the most successful businesses focus on innovation as a means to stay relevant and at the cutting-edge. Today’s leaders know that in order to keep pace in this age of disruption, the need to bring new and even improved products, methods, and experiences to the market is paramount. 

That’s why roles like Chief Innovation Officer, and dedicated innovation teams, are becoming more popular every day. For some time, innovation was perceived as a job function of those in research and development, product development, and marketing. But for everyone else, the message was to focus on your day job. Now, innovation teams are comprised of diverse and eclectic contributors, from functions across the entire company, focused on building the next generation of products and experiences that customers not only want but need.

Customers should be central to innovation

Innovation-for-all sounds exciting, like the sort of thing startups do, but the truth is that innovation without focus rarely leads to business success or growth. While some impressive and creative ideas may stem from open innovation, it doesn’t necessarily address the unique and meaningful pain points that your customers face. By creating a structure that involves your customers at every stage (especially early stages) of your innovation efforts, businesses will more definitively build products that contribute to business performance.

Even in innovation, fail fast and often

It’s not surprising that consumers are often brutally honest. When it comes to the next big thing, they don’t hesitate to hide their disappointment. While it may seem frustrating, this can actually be a business’s strongest asset.

Traditionally, innovation teams conduct focus groups and perform customer research to inform new product ideas and assess market fit, but these efforts can be costly and time-consuming. By the time a product makes it to market, the information gathered during the focus group may be dated or too specific to a small audience group. To address this shortfall, and many others, businesses are putting the customer first by including human insights at every stage of their innovation efforts.

Human insights: the crossroads between innovation and a customer-centric culture

Successful innovation teams listen to their customers with empathy, and they’re more likely to produce products that truly fulfill their needs. The human insights that your customers bring to the table will make all the difference in ensuring that the product not only solves their problems but also provides an exceptional experience they’ll keep coming back for time and time again. If you want to innovate, start by listening to your customers.

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About the author:

Steven is a Content Strategist at UserTesting. When he’s not inserting oxford commas where they belong, you can find him shooting pool at a local dive or laughing at his own jokes.