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How to do Future of Work - the product development

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How to do Future of Work - the product development

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In a series of posts, I'll try to translate a more or less standard business needs into how I think it could be done with some simple "future of work" ideas and tools. In this post, I want to discuss product development and I think I have at least some ideas on how to do it better by listening to people that know more than you (yes, they do exist). 

So you're doing products. Hopefully products that someone actually uses. Then you have "users". If you're a druglord or a software company that is. Otherwise you have people using your product(s).

(I like to say people instead of users since it sort of makes them human(!). Semantics aside, if you think about these great guys as real people of flesh and blood, some other things come quite naturally.)

In order to be successful with your product, you probably need to be a bit visionary and you definitely need to innovate. Let's start with that.

You need to have a vision for what your product should do, what it will help people do. It might be changing the world with micro-loans, it might be a new flavour of cereal. I tend to like the "micro-loan"-style of products better, but anyway.

You need to have someone trying your product out. Even if you don't charge for it to begin with, you need to sell it to someone who buys it. If it's free, you're asking for a very valuable currency in return; time.

When you've found out what your product should help people with and you've sold it to someone (more on the future of sales in a later post), you need to innovate.

You need to get about 50% of the innovation from yourself, iterating on your initial vision. So you think of another flavour of cereal, or perhaps a new kind of loan only for women entrepreneurs.

The other 50% is coming from the people who are using your product. Maybe "... the cereal would absorb less milk and be more crisp if they were shaped like an orb instead of a cube (you happen to have a very passionate customer who's also a mathematician specialising on fluids, the volume of geometrical shapes and cereal texture)".

Or perhaps a smaller iteration:

"As an aid-worker in Guatemala for the last 15 years, I've seen that a lot of people are very reluctant to apply for a loan because of a large amount of financial pride. People here don't like to take loans from anyone, so if your company would call 'loans' something like 'business transaction' you will get a lot more applicants."

Invaluable knowledge for you as a business, but you couldn't know it yourself. But your customers do, and you're lucky enough that they let you know. Or are you really lucky, isn't this what you've been striving to do all along?

Because you're a Future of Work company, you have been doing a couple of things to help your product development.

You have been documenting your journey towards a new product in a digital way. You're documenting the brainstorm sessions so that they're searchable afterwards (even 5 years after). You're discussing the brainstorm through comments with your team across the globe, and everyone could see it and are encouraged to contribute. Based on the brainstorm, a structured product development process is mapped out.

Your organisation is interacting with the customers via phone, Facebook, Twitter or email, but everything is collected, tagged and followed up on in your digital environment. You don't have "customer service" and "development" as siloed departments digitally, but they work together to do what's best for your customers (aka the people using your products). You invite the people that are using your product most passionately to take part in the development, right there in your digital tool. You trust them.

This gives your company the invaluable knowledge that you need in order to keep innovating faster and better than everyone else. This is the future of work in product development.

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