March 12

Demand-Side Innovation

The following insights were gleaned from a presentation at INDUSTRY given by Bob Moesta of The Re-Wired Group @bmoesta. Download Product Management TACTICS eBook for more.

There is an oversupply of innovation and technology and really, consumers simply don’t know how to fit all of it into their lives. But by focusing on the jobs-to-be-done that consumers have, we can create better products and entirely new business models.

Every decision the customer makes shouldn’t be thought of as trivial.  The customer is actually making that decision and “hiring your product” to do a job that it has out for hire. If you do not understand the deep, detailed, and real reasons why the customer chose to “hire” your product, you’re operating blindly.

So, how is one to get this deep understanding of their customers?  Have rigorous conversations with a few customers to get a full picture around why they chose your product, how they use it, and why they got rid of their previous solution. It is also helpful to have similarly rigorous discussions with former customers or potential customers. Listen intently. Don’t start thinking about the next question until the customer finishes their answer.  In fact, when they answer, ask them why.  Dig in more with them.  If you find yourself asking too many questions, so much that it’s a little uncomfortable, that’s OK.  That means you’re doing things right.

By getting down to the small details, you can see patterns of pain points emerge. With that perspective, you can find ways to rapidly improve your customer’s experience. If you listen well, you may find a solution your customer wants but didn’t even ask for.

Invention is creating a thing. Innovation is creating something that has a lasting impact on the world. Innovation builds on previous innovations. For instance, the Segway was an invention, but the typewriter was an innovation. The typewriter, with its QWERTY keyboard continuing to have an impact on the world today. The typewriter, while it isn’t used today, has changed the way that our society creates content.

Demand-side innovation uses feedback from consumers and focuses on problems first rather than jumping to potential solutions. That works better than supply-side innovation, which focuses on a specific solution.  After all, if the demand isn’t present for that specific solution, all things fall apart.

Also, our products aren’t just products.  Every product is a service, and every service is an experience. It is imperative to understand how customers actually use the product.  The way that they use it is actually a part of the overall product experience, which we still have a responsibility for.

In the end, though, our products aren’t the solution. They are a tool for the customer to progress and reach their own solution. If customers cannot figure out the product or figure out how to progress, that is our problem as product people, not theirs.  So constantly pay attention to how well your customers can progress with your products.  If they’re not progressing well, it’s time to iterate.

To view Bob’s full presentation, visit:

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


You may also like