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When you are starting to design a new product or service, or are redesigning an existing one, how do you know that the problem you are trying to solve is meaningful, important, and shared by a large enough group of members that a solution is likely to succeed in the market?

Two challenges spring to mind. First, finding the right tools to truly understand complex problems isn’t easy. Second, it’s human nature to try to create a rational solution in the face of many unknowns and perceived/real risks – especially when the product/service might make or break your budget and/or future. These two forces often work against each other and lead to solutions that don’t solve anything.

The endless pursuit of insights

 Where can we look for insights to guide our decisions? Our first temptation is to look at consumer market research segmented by demographics, psychographics or technographics for data points that confirm or refute our intuition. You might also look at competitors and try to reverse-engineer their success, or classify them on a spectrum of qualities to look for attributes that might differentiate you. If you have an existing product, you might look at analytics and hope the data will point you in the direction of the next big thing to consider. And, last but not least, you might consult existing members. They’re often happy to provide a list of ideas and requests for new features. This data can make you feel confident about your decisions and steer you down a path toward building a solution that is clearer in your mind.

The problem? Data is almost always a lagging indicator of behavior and doesn’t help identify unmet needs. Even when you aggregate it all together and look for trends, you are reporting on what has already happened. Data doesn’t tell you why.

The Mauna Kea analogy

The world’s tallest mountain technically is not Mount Everest. Mount Everest is the tallest mountain above sea level, but if we’re talking sheer height, base to summit, then the tallest mountain is Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. Everest stands 29,035 feet above sea level. Mauna Kea only stands 13,796 above sea level, but the mountain extends about 19,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean. Over half of it is submerged. That puts the total height of Mauna Kea at about 33,500 feet – nearly a mile taller than Everest.

The same analogy applies to the insights you use to focus your creative energy when designing a product. It’s easy to find the lagging indicators – the 40 percent of Mauna Kea that is above the water – but much harder to find the leading indicators of potential member behavior. And focusing only on lagging indicators is a dangerous blindness to have when you’re trying to find product-market fit and persuade people to switch to your product.

We learned at THINK 17 that the single most important consideration when creating a product is the “job” that it might fulfill in your members’ lives. “Jobs to Be Done” are what cause a customer to hire or fire a product. Finding a job that many people critically need filled is the most important factor in identifying new opportunities and building disruptive solutions. Credit unions succeed when they understand the importance of creating products and services that solve real member problems, and when they have a set of tools and frameworks like “Jobs to Be Done” to identify and validate real human problems.

Want to delve beneath the surface of your members’ needs? Join our live “Jobs to Be Done” webinar. We’ll explore the “Jobs to Be Done” framework for uncovering and understanding member needs, and help you apply these principles at your credit union.