What Customers Want

Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Crate Breakthrough Products and Services

by Anthony W. Ulwick

30 second summary

People hire products to do a job. People then judge the product by how well it performs that job. A product can perform in a variety of different ways – faster, easier, quieter, tastier – and each of these different “ways” or metrics is called an outcome. The key to creating products that customers want is by making the product perform beyond expectations in as many of these outcomes as possible. If your product can deliver better customer satisfaction in a number of different outcomes, then your product delivers new value, and it is, by definition, innovative.

2 more minutes of summary

Think of a product as your employee. You hire this product to do a job. That product will be a good employee if it does the job well. Most jobs are multi-faceted, so doing a “good job” involves meeting a lot of expectations across a wide range of dimensions (e.g. showing up on time, being a good teammate, doing work on time, doing good work, being adaptable, going above and beyond, etc.). All these different dimensions of performance are called “outcomes.” Some are more important than others. Finding the important ones which are not currently satisfied by existing products is how you discover opportunity to deliver new value. These opportunities are called underserved outcomes. As a product developer, most decisions you make should be driven by this “outcome driven” approach. That includes project portfolio management (will this project help me address underserved outcomes?), product design (does this feature help the product better address underserved outcomes?), product messaging (talking to the consumer about underserved outcomes), and market research and product management (how to get information to better understand underserved outcomes).

Key concepts in the book

  • The concept of hiring a product to do a job
  • What are they and how to find them
  • How to find underserved outcomes using simple math
  • Outcome-based segmentation: finding similar people with similar needs
  • Targeting your customer and getting the messaging right
  • Brainstorming using the framework of outcomes


Posts and Notes for this book are underway!