How to package your skills and ideas into something worth commercializing?
How to get from knowledge about certain area, even expertise, to commercial success based on this knowledge?
I have seen two approaches. Let’s call the first one marketing approach and second one engineering approach. What we agreed to call marketing approach was made famous by a very successful man and in general it says customers know nothing and it can be told what they need and want. This approach worked for iPhone and Apple. They changed paradigm about phones, before iPhone everyone expected phone to be as small as possible and its battery to last as long as possible. Probably of more importance is that Apple switched focus from products to the services. Anyhow, I have an extremely hard time believing this approach can work for software and in corporate arena, especially if one is starting from scratch. It is useful to remember Apple had its chest full of money from iPad venture and development of iPhone was in many ways defensive move against Nokia and increasing ability of mobile phones to play music.
What we agreed to call engineering approach has a following attitude: let customer tell me what they want and I am confident I will build it. With my knowledge about topic I will convince them I am their man so they will trust me and wait for me to complete engineering work of art which will solve all their problems. In reality this does not work. How will customer hear about you? Will they really wait for you to make something out of nothing? Most importantly, will customer be capable to, will they be able to communicate clearly enough what they want and need? With confidence I claim answer to the previous questions is no. As much no one wants to be told what they need and want, that much no one is really capable to communicate what they really need and want.
No, conclusion is not that truth is somewhere in the middle of two approaches. Truth is never in the middle, as Molder would say truth is out there. If one has intimate knowledge of his customers, meaning its processes, key strength and weaknesses. Customers troubles on the market and threats coming their way. Based on knowledge and expertise one should be able to produce product or service that will be perfect match for customer’s needs and wants. If one can say the same for several customers in the same field, one can claim he can produce right product or service for entire industry.
In order not to stay vague about the question from the beginning. It is not needed to know the customer needs and wants it is needed to know the customer in order to commercially capitalize on knowledge and expertise.