You are the product manager’s product manager. You are smart and effective and crush problems daily. You hit your numbers. You get shit done! But now leadership adds to the pressure, “we need an innovation that is going to make our customers [investors, clients, shareholders, board members – fill in the blank] sit up.” The reason might be slumping sales, competition, customer feedback or ChatGPT. Again, fill in the blank. Regardless of the cause, you now have another plate to spin. 

So, what do you do? You are on an exceptionally tight product development timeline. As a product manager, you are juggling multiple tasks and dozens of meetings, and it’s your neck on the line if targets are not met. And so you must focus. You can’t afford to let your mind wander into things that don’t drive results now. So you focus on the known problems. You didn’t get to where you are today because you are a slacker. You are focused, can manage the intense demands of the job and are the Terminator of problem solvers. The problems crop up, and like a game of product management Whack-A -Mole you crush them. You are not only the person who identifies the problems. You are the source of the ideas to solve them. It’s so fluid you hardly notice the space between the problem and the solution. And then you are the one to drive it all home.

That’s idea-led innovation, and when it works, wow! Some famous examples of finding a problem and coming up with an innovative idea to solve it include Facebook, Amazon, and PayPal. But even if you’re not Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, and you hit it on a smaller scale, it’s still pretty awesome. You brought a product to market quickly. Customers are falling over themselves to buy in. You’re getting noticed at the senior leadership levels in a good way. And best of all, you solved a critical problem for customers. You are delivering against their needs and their values. Damn, that feels good!

But how often does this work? Be honest. Too often, you launch a product or feature that is a swing and a miss. Or, in some ways, worse yet, a near miss. It feels like it should be something, but it isn’t. You wind up in a product death spiral, endlessly tweaking and adjusting the thing, and it never really gets that lift. And despite the fail fast mantra, when was the last time a feature or product got pulled in your organization? What happens all too often is you fail very slowly and expensively. 

Now, the blame game can begin. Some will immediately say, “Ah! It’s the company’s fault! They should have pulled that feature or product when it wasn’t successful.” Others will point to a possible lack of validation or rushing the project. Or let’s blame the designers. They didn’t make it useable enough! As a product manager, maybe you’re taking it on, telling yourself you didn’t do enough. 

What if I told you it doesn’t need to be this way? What if I told you you could avoid all that uncertainty, the blame game, the sleepless nights and virtually guarantee success or at least know not to launch something? What if we could take the guesswork out of innovation? You can do this through user-research-led innovation. Just imagine tapping into the deep, real insights that illuminate your customer’s unknown, unmet needs. Now armed with this knowledge, you would have the power to guide your team toward developing solutions that precisely meet those needs, behaviours, and values. Imagine your roadmap shifting from endless tweaking and tinkering to being driven by a clear vision. The result would be intuitive, user-friendly products that establish strong emotional connections and foster customer loyalty.

Moreover, leveraging user-research-led innovation would minimize the risks associated with developing products that miss the mark. Now, you can optimize your resources and streamline the development process. Imagine the impact you could have by consistently delivering successful solutions that exceed user expectations and shape your organization’s future.

But right now, you’re stuck. You are stuck feeding the execution beast. You are in a loop of endless tweaks and changes and not making any real progress. And, of course, you know you need to find a way to get your head up and look further out, but every time you try, you can’t because you only get a piece of the picture and don’t have time to scan the periphery. The time constraints and competing priorities are real, making it difficult to get enough perspective to challenge assumptions or reframe problems the way you could.

Moreover, while your organization talks about being user-centric, the focus is on velocity and short-term goals. You don’t have the capacity, let alone the political capital, to make this cultural shift. On top of that, there’s that one idea if only you could… but you can’t for all the reasons we’ve already covered.

It seems like an impossible hill to climb, right? It’s not, though. NextWAVE’s User-Research-Led Innovation Program is a comprehensive initiative to foster creativity and drive meaningful change within organizations. It combines generative research, engaging workshops, and implementation planning to cultivate fresh insights and transform them into actionable ideas. Using generative research techniques, the program uncovers untapped user needs, motivations, and preferences, unlocking new possibilities for innovation. These insights are then shared and explored in dynamic workshops, where multidisciplinary teams collaborate, brainstorm, and refine concepts, leveraging diverse perspectives. Finally, an implementation planning phase called “Ideas to Action” facilitates translating refined ideas into practical strategies, roadmaps, and tangible outcomes, ensuring the seamless integration of innovation into business processes and products/services. This holistic approach empowers organizations to drive user-centred innovation, foster cross-functional collaboration, and achieve transformative outcomes.

Embracing user-research-led innovation might seem like a bridge too far right now. How is the team going to feel about new research techniques? Will they trust the insights coming out of it? Is the organization ready to have its assumptions challenged and potentially confront uncomfortable truths about the product or target market? Plus, there’s the issue of control over the innovation process. Collaborative workshops are all good, but gathering and guiding input from diverse stakeholders is no small challenge. Then, there’s this idea for the action implementation planning phase. Are the ideas that come out of this even going to be feasible? What about resourcing, technical challenges, or getting enough buy-in? 

How do you know this will work? At NextWAVE, we’ve done this all before. We crafted the comprehensive framework of the User-Research-Lead Innovation Program based on our years of experience conducting generative research, facilitating groups through complex processes and leading teams to produce outstanding results. We’ve brought it all together in one package to help you find you break out of the rut and find new opportunities without disrupting or overwhelming you or your team. 

Because the process is collaborative, you are involved at every step. We’ll facilitate the process and leverage our expertise so that you can tap into the insights from the research and diverse stakeholders’ collective wisdom and experience without relinquishing control over your team or overall direction. We use this approach from the initial framing of the problem through the implementation planning. We’ll draw the best out of you and your team by empowering your strengths as problem solvers through deep insights and an engaging process. 

Look. You’re stuck, and you know it. How many times have you tried the same thing, expecting and hoping for different results? NextWAVE’s user-research-led innovation program is a significant growth and competitive advantage opportunity. Do you want to continue tweaking your product, or do you want to drive meaningful, customer-focused innovation?

Take the first step towards that vision and book a meeting with me today. It’s an opportunity to position your products for success in a rapidly changing landscape.