How your product or service must overcome Newton’s First Law[+ a free worksheet to help you do that]

Newton’s First Law

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

When you’re creating a new product or service you must think really (really) hard about this law. You’re going to need to find a way to BE the unbalanced force that acts against that object.

Change. Is. Hard.

Most customers will keep doing what they are doing even when better alternatives are presented to them. The “pain” of switching to something new must be worked into your product — much beyond positioning and marketing.

I’m a big fan of tools like Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas as well as empathy maps that are core to design thinking. If you haven’t already adopted these tools, please do — this post can only encourage that.

What I’ve found, however, is that I’ve often had to pay much closer attention to what’s involved in getting customers to change how they are doing things — even though the methods they are employing to relieve their pain, give them value and help them do their job makes them miserable.

You may have also heard the idiom

better the devil you know than the devil you don’t

Your product may very well relieve some of your customer’s biggest headaches. Even better, your customer might actually realize that your product is way better than what they are using today. But they still don’t make the switch. Why? Because of chaos and order.

Order is what is known — good or bad. It meets expectations. There is little uncertainty. It’s safe. It might not be great — but there are no surprises.

Chaos is what is unknown. It’s a scary place. There could be a lot of surprises. It’s stressful and messy.

Generally, people want to be safe and certain. They shy away from uncertainty. They tend to gravitate to order because it’s easier and less stressful.

When you’re trying to convince a customer to use your solution instead of their broken one, you’re asking them to move from order (the devil they know) to chaos and risk (the devil they don’t).

This is a more complicated influencer than most innovators anticipate. By nature, Innovators live on the line that separates order and chaos. They thrive on it — why wouldn’t their customers want the same?

In order to get teams thinking about this, I invented a slight modification to the standard empathy maps and canvases. I want teams to talk about how a customer’s current solutions (existing alternatives) stack up against their underlying pain, gain and jobs to be done. Then I want teams to explore how their solution stacks up against those existing solutions and hypothesize ways to draw their customers into a new reality.

Step 1: As you would with any other empathy tool, consider the pains, gains, and jobs to be done of your specific customer segment.

Step 2: In the middle columns (what I added), specify how customers are currently addressing their pains, gains, and jobs to be done.

Step 3: Rationalize what it would take to cause a customer to move from their current solutions to your solution. Here you are looking specifically at the gap between a specific current solution to the new solution.

This extra step may be implicit to some teams. My goal was to get teams talking about this problem as much (or even more) than value proposition alone.

I’ve publishes a PDF worksheet that you can use on your teams if you like.

Of course, this worksheet doesn’t actually solve your problem ;-) Your job is to turn these new hypotheses into experiments that you and your team can run to ultimately find a way to create gravity in your product that allows customers to cross that order chaos boundary on their own.

Let me know if you want any clarity or further explanation — I’d be happy to expand this post with a bit more detail.

What’s Your Journey?

I’m really interested in hearing about your challenges as an Innovator. Please share a note, comment or a story. If you like this post, please help by sharing it and giving the post a few claps so it can reach more people.

You can also follow me on twitter @joelsemeniuk where I regularly discuss all things innovation, and more importantly, the personal costs we innovators bear.