No Pain, No Gain



So a new year is upon us, and my fitness club is flooded with new members seeking to fulfill New Year’s resolutions.  By March, it’ll be business as usual.  The people who put in the work day in and day out will still be there.  Like the sign on the gym wall says, “No Pain, No Gain”.


“No Pain, No Gain” starts with the customer. I can’t count how many companies I see who start with a “cool” technology that the inventors love, but customers see as “nice to have”.   Pain is rooted in the lives of customers, and it takes hard work to solve for pain better than existing alternatives.  With the right solution in hand, it takes more hard work to develop compelling value propositions, align the stakeholders, optimize pricing, find the right partners, get your sales strategy and story nailed, and secure winning beachheads.


Starting with products and services, there is a world of difference between “nice to have” and “need to have”.  Disruptive technologies rooted in customer pain change the rules of the game.  They become “need to have” solutions that displace incumbents.  But disruptive technologies are in short supply these days.


Witness the glaring lack of disruptive technologies I saw at CES 2013 last week.  The most touted “innovations” were “phablets” (5”-6” devices combining a phone and a tablet); OLED and Ultra HD TVs touting ultra HD and 4K resolution (i.e., doubling the number of pixels displayed); and Dish TV with “Hopper” and Sling (ability to delete commercials from recordings and stream content to any device).  Is this pain?  Is it disruptive?  Sounds like pretty “nice to have” stuff to me.


Disruption creates pain, and pain motivates action.   As a market strategist and operational executive, I have spent my entire career working with disruptive technologies tied to market transformations.  Some succeed wildly.  Others limp along.   I find time and again that winners understand the three intertwined principles of  “no pain, no gain”.


1.  Pain starts with the customer, not the product.   Identifying the right pain to solve for takes a lot of hard work rooted in inspiration, creativity, and analytical rigor.


2. Pain directs precise product requirements that solve for that pain in novel ways that can disrupt the market status quo.  More hard work. 


3. Pain informs rigorous, focused operational planning and execution that aligns key stakeholders around a common, easy-to-understand story.  More hard work. 


Ready to get down to some hard work.  Find the pain.  Reap the gain.  Let’s talk.





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