Benchmarking, simply put, is comparing or evaluating something against a standard.
This could be your process, your product, or even you and your capabilities.
While it’s nice to know where you stand, it’s not how you stand out.
Beware of benchmarking your way to the bottom.
To stand out, and boldly go where you haven’t gone before, involve your customers in exploring and co-creating the future together. It’s an effective way to drive innovation both in your process and your product.
In the book, Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, G. Shawn Hunter shares how benchmarking can bring you down, and, what you can do to, instead, change the game and leap frog ahead.
Don’t Benchmark Your Way to Mediocrity
Benchmarking can start a race to the middle, and ultimately, the bottom.
“Often the conversations we do have with customers involve benchmarking processes — “How did other companies do it?” Yet most eminent thinkers, researchers, and writers involved with creative product or process development warn of benchmarking to mediocrity.”
Dare to Be Different If You Want to Differentiate
When you connect with your customers, you can boldly go where you and your customers have never gone before.
“Around 2001, while leading Targeted Learning, my colleagues and I got our customer research and stories together and dreamed up an online system to teach the learner and leader how to use, apply, track, and campaign on our video learning assets. We built the system, and when we showed it to a few customers, people surprised us by saying ‘You’ve created an LMS, although it’s got some stuff we haven’t seen before.’”
Listen to Your Customers to Drive Innovation
Don’t build a better mousetrap. Use your customer’s needs to define and design a better solution.
“We had indeed built a learning management system before we had ever heard of one. Instead of benchmarking LMS vendors (whom we didn’t know existed), we listened to our customers and created something unique. We did it with passion and energy, because believed it in our originality and in our ability to create a killer application.”
Co-Create the Future with Your Customers and Innovate in Your Product
When you open the doors of the workshop to your customers, you create a two-way street of teaching and learning.
“Through engaging customers in the creative process, we can teach them at the same time we are learning from them. IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm, engages its clients in its highly co-creative, rapid prototyping process of design while simultaneously instructing and creating these capacities in its clients.”
I’ll add that Your customer is a strategic choice — who you serve and who you don’t defines your product.
Go for the bold – what’s a simple way you could start exploring the future together with your customers?
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Image by Robert D. Donovan.