Tomorrow’s innovation is driven by today’s customer experience

Most conversations about innovative ideas sound something like this:

Wouldn’t it be cool if…

That’s a good place to begin. Innovation starts by being open to the big, audacious ideas and “what if” questions bouncing around in our heads. But what happens next is what matters most. Because what might be cool to make and what customers really want or need, could be entirely different.

This critical consideration has a name – customer experience.

It signals an important shift from the self-serving language of us or we to them. Failure to make that shift will prove costly and ineffective. Otherwise it’s like trying to go from zero to 70 mph and barreling your vehicle toward the finish line in first gear. You can’t do it, and you’ll burn out the engine trying.


For more than 40 years, interest in electric vehicles (EV) renews when gasoline prices soar, and wanes when prices plummet. Add to that waning a customer experience that hasn’t fulfilled because of limited battery range and performance and it’s obvious why EVs have stalled.

But now technology is catching up, customer experience issues are being met as battery life and range have made significant progress, and many customers don’t want to remain at the mercy of fluctuating oil prices. Then consider a growing societal movement to wean people from fossil fuels for environmental good. Customers are making their desires known, which has led California’s governor to push for a rule that would ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in the state by 2035. Collectively it signals a transformational shift that has led automakers to invest heavily in EVs.


Every product-based company wants to develop their next MVP – most valuable product. But the smartest way to reach new product success is to begin with a different kind of MVP – Minimum Viable Product.

Settling for “minimum” when you can go full throttle might sound counterintuitive, but the rationale is purely economic. Creating an offering with all possible features and benefits is expensive and potentially wasteful. Vehicle prototypes that have appeared at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit are notoriously flashy and futuristic, but they don’t become viable vehicles until the consumers say so. They are the ones setting the bar for what they want and what they are willing to pay for it. It’s their wants, needs, desires, and pain points that need to be addressed. On the issue of EVs, the auto industry is taking note.

General Motors has committed to building up to 20 EVs models by 2023 and has boldly defined its “path to an all-electric future.” Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler automakers are all forging alliances and partnerships to share the cost in developing entirely new EV platforms. This, in turn, has a ripple effect on OEMs and supplier networks that also will need to transform to meet customer demand for a new kind of vehicle with different components.

The point becomes clear: without customer experience insights, early MVP work, and continued iteration and testing of EV batteries, the transformation we’re seeing now wouldn’t be possible. Because of it, everyone is pivoting – and fast.


This is where innovation often gets a bad rap. When companies build out technology in search of a problem, without the insights of actual customers, those companies will have a hard time identifying the problems that justified the technology in the first place.

Right now AVs – autonomous vehicles – are poised to be the next big thing. But what do customers have to say about their comfort with this technology? What will ownership mean as the customer experience becomes dramatically different? AVs today are like where automakers were more than two decades ago with EVs – still in their infancy.

It is why a proven process is needed to prevail over a gut instinct, an internal desire, or chasing after the competition. That process – human-centered design (HCD) – is rooted in understanding the customer experience and their desires before committing to build anything.

If you’re listening, then what you build or the solution you create will get validated when it works for customers. This customer experience perspective makes it clear who’s driving the car and when you get your moment to shine.

Tomorrow’s new technology and innovative platforms start by anticipating and recognizing unmet needs today and then working strategically to fulfill them. That requires following a methodical and disciplined process. But critical to all of it is the customer and their experience. It is what points to the right solution and leads to success.

This post echoes and borrows from “Start with Them” – a chapter in our AI Guide on the importance of the customer experience in developing AI solutions for business. Access a free copy ofA Practical Guide on Understand AIhere.

As Twisthink's Managing Partner, Bob has a passion and gift for connecting with people and harnessing the power of a cross-functional team with not only Twisthink but also our clients. As a team builder and team promoter, he is committed to creativity and creating bold change.

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