Convincing customers about latent needs

The Design Thinking framework is very helpful in determining the latent, unmet needs of the customer. As an innovation expert or a startup, you or your team has spent significant time understanding the customer usage patterns and made a note of various emotions expressed. Your study has revealed certain gold problems or needs that existing products or services don’t address. Great progress and you’re ready to ideate on various solutions that can be prototyped. Let’s assume you’ve gone further ahead and reached a point where these solutions can be discussed with other businesses or consumers that can benefit from this.


What do you think will happen at this stage? Your team has a solution that meets latent, unmet needs – right? However, these needs are also unexpressed. What would you estimate as the customer response to your solution?


Tim Kastelle describes this beautifully as the Innovation Paradoxthose that need it don’t get it while those that get it don’t need it.

Image from Seth Godin’s Gulf of Disapproval¬†post.

A vast majority of people who meed your idea will not get it (Red line). They may not accept the problem you’ve identified. They may be happy with the status quo. There may be situations where the problem may be accepted but it isn’t considered worth solving or critical enough to warrant efforts around it. Whatever the reasons are, your idea will face a tough time.


On the other hand, there is a small majority of people who get your idea but may not need it. They are not facing the problem you’ve identified. However, these people can help evangelize your solution to other customers. It still isn’t prudent to devote a large chunk of time.


If you’re with me so far, its not all dark. There is a subset of folks who need your solution and who get your idea. These are customers who are difficult to find – but its your job to get to identify where they might be found. The sooner you connect with them the better. These customers will be your early adopters and propel your idea, its benefits etc over time. Eventually the initial naysayers¬†will catch up and ultimately “get your idea”.


It’s a long road and requires a lot of patience and persistence. Isn’t that the case with anything worthwhile?



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