Embrace The Hate To Innovate
Imagine you’re speed dating. You move from table to table looking for someone who will latch on to your special kind of mojo. (Perhaps this is you: “I like walks on the beach; listening to Duran Duran; wearing parachute pants and neon green, sleeveless (‘wifebeaters’) T-shirts.”
When you finally find your match, you want to spend every moment with your new soul mate. Their opinion now matters most to you. After all, they tell you that they are your biggest fan. (Sigh) Life is good.
Most of us like to be liked, and that (according to Barry Calpino, Head of Innovation for Kraft) poses an often-overlooked opportunity for innovators.
Calpino argues that when we constantly look to our most loyal customers and fans for feedback and insights, we miss the opportunity to hear about the glaring gaps in our performance. While your number one fan tells you what you want to hear, haters will tell you what you need to hear.
In other words, maybe the parachute pants and neon green T-shirts aren’t really ideal.
It turns out that the people you passed up in our speed dating metaphor have the most to offer you in terms of game-changing feedback. Says Calpino: “If you occasionally go to the people who absolutely loathe your product or service and ask them for feedback, you’ll often find HUGE opportunities to improve your offering.”
His advice is simple: Embrace the haters.
Barry spoke at our recent Health Care Innovation Summit. He chose this topic because he believed health care has so much to learn from the haters.
Show of hands—who hates: going to hospitals; getting eight statements for every medical procedure; the fact that doctors make you wait…and wait; those drafty gowns that reveal your butt; the ridiculous disclaimers attached to every pill; the…? OK, you get the idea.
The point is that those who hate what you are providing are doing everything short of begging for a better alternative. This means that someone who can deliver a better solution will steal away your customers as soon as they do. If you ignore the haters, you are ignoring your biggest Achilles’ heel.
Embrace the hate to innovate.
Haters will point you to new products, services and business models that your loyal and expert customers would never consider. For example, true environmentalists probably don’t drive V-8 trucks that suck gas, but they certainly could help transportation companies think up a new model that promotes car-sharing like Zipcar.
Calpino noted that soup haters complained about thin soup and thus Chunky soup was born, and Ziploc containers were born directly from his former team listening to complaints about Tupperware and Rubbermaid.
I believe listening to the haters helped invent the Roomba, the air freshener, voicemail, TiVo and the prenuptial agreement. In response to hate, these products eliminated chores, smells, missed opportunities, video tapes and…well four out of five isn’t bad.
This same kind of thinking works for people who hate you at work, too. For example, if you sell life insurance, instead of going to your number one sales person for ideas—you know, the one you just gave the giant commission check to—why not go instead to the young new hire who shows incredible promise but can’t sell anything to save his life? Why is this person beginning to hate you and the company? It may just be that his peers are no longer interested in what you have to sell. That’s right; Gen Y might not be into annuities. Opportunity? You betcha!
So here’s one for everyone reading: I hate it when people throw cigarette butts on the ground. Discuss. And then please send all ideas to your favorite cigarette company.