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What Can You Blend Together? (Getting Past Stumbling Block 2)

Before we move on, let’s quickly look at the ideas you’ve generated for your opportunity. Going through the exercise in the first part of this chapter should have produced a dozen ideas.

Not all the ideas you’ve generated will be worth pursuing, so pick the three that you think are the most promising. In other words, the three that offer the greatest differentiation and the largest number of benefits to either your customers or your company. Why three? Because three gives you a good range to experiment, challenge assumptions, and gather feedback in the next stage.

These are usually the ideas that you and everyone on your team (if you’re working in a team) recognizes as sure winners. Others aren’t nearly as good, and everyone might agree that they’re unworkable.

A word of caution: Don’t worry about trying to select the most practical ideas; focus on the most disruptive ones. We’ll work on developing the practical ones in the next stage of the process (see Chapter 4). In the meantime, try to look past the obvious, and be sure to consider some ideas you aren’t sure about and that are unusual enough to be disruptive.

Many significant innovations in the last century got their start as unexpected discoveries or seemingly impractical ideas. One of the most famous of these occurred in 1928 when Scottish Scientist Alexander Fleming was researching the flu and noticed that a blue-green mold had infected one of his Petri dishes and killed the staphylococcus bacteria growing in it. The result? Penicillin.

  • Many significant innovations got their start as unexpected discoveries or impractical ideas.

Refine Three Ideas

After you select your three ideas, start the process of refining them into a more holistic and powerful form.

The stumbling block here is that many organizations still think of their offerings to customers as isolated products, services, and information. When they do think of these components together, companies tend to use the word bundle, which still has the connotation of separate products. But, as I mentioned, real meaning comes when an offering is blended in such a way that the product, service, and information components can’t succeed independently.

Two blending techniques are especially helpful (they’re the two I use when working with clients):

  • Blend the bits. Start thinking about the product, service, and information bits simultaneously. So, if one of your ideas is for a new product, what are the services and networked information that would be essential in supporting that product?

    For example, the phone we developed for Disney started as an idea for a cordless phone that rests in a charging base that looks like Mickey’s shoe (the product). We then added a way for people to find misplaced handsets. By pressing a button on the charging base, Mickey’s voice would scream, “I’m over here!” (information). This then led us to think about “downloadable character voices” so Donald Duck and Goofy could tell you where they are, too (the service).
  • Blend the benefits. Always remember that, with few exceptions, whatever you’re offering has to benefit three key customers: partners, buyers, and users. What are the benefits? Whom do they benefit? How and under what circumstances are they delivered? If only one or two of those customer groups actually reaps the benefits, try to even things out. Otherwise, your offer may end up too lopsided to be successful.

The new media brand Hulu, for example, does a great job of recognizing that it has three types of customers, and it makes every benefit decision in a balanced way. According to CEO Jason Kilar, “I’m not saying it’s easy, but we constantly live that delicate balance between our three customers and not sacrificing one out of the three or two out of the three. If you ever stop by the office, I think you’d feel that advertiser focus. You’d feel that user focus and you’d feel that content provider focus.”12

Likewise, the Disney offering needed to deliver benefits to the partners (retailers), the buyers (parents), and the users (kids) at every point where a customer could possibly interact with it. Take, for example, the point of purchase.

For the kids, the benefit was seeing their favorite characters on the packaging and being able to interact with the boxes and products at their height. That sounds obvious, but standard shelving units (in anything other than a toy store) are too high for kids. For parents, it was learning about how multiple components worked together. For example, the products shipped with two remotes: the one for the kids had very few buttons, while the one for parents was as functional as most standard remotes. We conveyed this benefit by creating a looped DVD reel that demonstrated 16 different products in action as used by a family. All of this helped retailers achieve one of the highest “attachment rates” of TV and DVD player sales in the industry, meaning that parents bought them together instead of separately—a real rarity in consumer electronics.

Your search for benefits should take into consideration how the ideas will be implemented (through existing channels and operations?), and the consequences of implementation (will the full benefits come through in months, years, or decades?). Consider also when and where the idea will be used. What will happen at those key touch-points in the short term, medium term, and long term?

Write down every possible benefit you can come up with—not just the obvious ones. And be prepared to make some changes to make those benefits more obvious.

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