Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Book Review: Outside In

I'm using my blog post today to write about a book that many innovators should pick up and read.  The book, entitled Outside In, was written by several Forrester Research consultants, and is nominally on the topic of "Putting the customer at the center of your business".  But much of the book is focused on the concept of the "customer experience journey" map, which I believe is a powerful tool for innovators.

The book review

First, the book review.  Outside In, written by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, is an good book meant to remind people that customers are the reason we have businesses.  Without customers, there's no revenue, no growth, no profits.  Yet we structure our businesses with the customer as an afterthought.  Outside In suggests that customers should be the center of the business proposition, structure and design, and that we should build businesses with the customer at the center of every proposition.

Early in the book, the authors introduce the concept of the customer experience journey.  This is a tool many innovators and designers use to examine the trajectory of a customer's experience with a company or product from the customer's point of view.  Many organizations have process maps and flow charts that describe how the process should work, but processes are designed to minimize cost and improve internal efficiency, not to satisfy or delight the customer.  This means that there are often many interactions or "touchpoints" where the customer expects specific information, interaction or experience levels that are incomplete or missing.  As we become sated with product choices, the differentiators will increasingly become service and experiences, which is why a customer experience journey is so important.

Much of the book then focuses on the "six disciplines" of customer experience, as defined by Manning and Bodine:
  • Strategy
  • Customer Understanding
  • Design
  • Measurement
  • Governance
  • Culture
While these disciplines seem right on the surface, I would have hoped that "design" and "culture" would have received more prominence.  After all, placing the customer at the center of the business proposition is a design issue, and is supported by corporate culture.  The rest simply ensures that the focus happens.

I'm happy to see that the concept of a customer experience journey is gaining some prominence in the book, and that the concept of placing the customer in the center of the business proposition is highlighted.  The book also focuses on driving new customer insights using ethnography and voice of the customer, which are tools we at OVO regularly use to discover new needs.  The concepts in the book are valuable and should be embraced by innovators.

My continuing rant about the publishing industry is resonant here as well.  The book is loaded, may I say larded, with "case studies" that extend the length of the book but don't add to additional insight.  Like a Malcolm Gladwell book, the concepts here could have easily been documented in 30-50 crisp pages, but that's not a book that can be published.  So the book has excellent points and examples but often feels like there is significant filler as well.

Innovators take note

There are three important overlaps between the points in this book and innovation.

First, the concept of customer experience and innovation.  I'm not sure that the book mentions innovation, but the customer experience journey should be a vital component of innovation work.  The journey provides a different perspective - examining the services and experiences that a customer embraces or endures.  The journey helps suss out customer needs or expectations at critical interactions, exchanges or touchpoints.  This information is invaluable for innovators.

Second, the concept of the intertwining of design and innovation.  Good design is good innovation, and vice versa.  Designers don't own a lock on design concepts - design concepts should be constantly introduced through innovation activities.  Every new initiative should be started with a design focus in mind.

Third, traditional market research provides information on existing products bought and used by existing customers.  Innovation is about providing new products to existing customers, or attracting new customers to new or existing products.  That means that traditional marketing research is not helpful in most cases for innovation.  A customer experience journey map provides insights into customer wants and needs, as does ethnography and voice of the customer.  Trying to innovate without these tools is like starting out to navigate the Earth assuming the Earth is flat.  You may arrive at your intended destination, but the journey may be difficult.

While Outside In is not necessarily a book about innovation, it is one innovators should read.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:46 AM


Blogger Paulo Peres said...

I liked a lot! the book is very recommendable

9:14 PM  

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