Innovation: Learning to Ask the Right Questions


Innovation: Some companies succeed year after year to create new products that beat the competition. What do they do differently?

Innovation: Learning to Ask the Right Questions

Me-too or knock-off products hit the marketplace every year.

The makers of these products see a successful product.  They try to compete without understanding why this competitive product is successful.

Because of patent laws, the makers of these knock-off products can’t just copy the competitor’s product.  So, they focus on making a similar product in hopes of capturing market share.

And that is the time when many companies begin asking the wrong questions.

The Last Question in Innovation: “How Might We?”

“How might we?” is the last question to ask in the innovation process.

However, it is not the least.

In product development, the “How Might We” question focuses on packaging, product design, and manufacturing.  The innovation team at IDEO used this question when making the first computer mouse for Apple’s Lisa Computer.

Before IDEO began to work on the Apple computer mouse, they wrote a mission statement, “The Challenge:”

“Create a new kind of computer navigation device that is less expensive and more reliable than any other on the market.”

They had asked questions that led to their goal.

The Eight Steps of Innovation.

How did IDEO so successfully meet this “Challenge?”  They first followed a process of deciding what purpose the product would serve.

Dr. Min Basadur is a former Procter & Gamble product research employee who worked on creating a product to compete with a competitive product, Irish Spring™.

In creating this product, the P&G team tried for months to create a scented soap like Irish Spring™.  However, these products did not meet consumer satisfaction.

In finding a solution, Dr. Basadur worked with the research team to use an 8-step process.  In this process, he began with the question, “Why might we want to make a better green striped bar?”

As the team continued, they found the benefits that consumers found in the competitive product.

When the questions became consumer focused, the answers became more productive.  The result was the body soap Coast™.

You can read more on the story and the process at Basadur Applied Creativity, “Don’t Jump from 1 to 8: The Irish Spring Story.”