Countless people do sit-ups as part of a regular workout routine to strengthen their back and abs; my children proudly tell me how many sit-ups they did for their school's fitness tests. However, Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON, Canada), has conducted enormous amounts of research on how backs get damaged. He consults to the NFL, NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball, as well as numerous elite golfers, tennis players, and Olympians. Dr. McGill's conclusion is that sit-ups place devastating loads on the disks and should be avoided. For those who are interested in learning more, check out this The New York Times article: Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back?
So our collective wisdom about sit-ups is absolutely wrong. People have been doing sit-ups for years and we all assumed that it was the right thing to do. So what do sit-ups have to do with commercializing breakthrough technology? We often make similar assumptions that can damage our product launches.
Here's a real life example of a damaging assumption that was fortunately corrected before it became a killer flaw. A medical device company assumed that it needed to invest millions to change the appearance of its new product. After all, the product isn't that pretty and prospects in focus groups panned the product. Luckily, the company took the time to talk to existing customers who actually experienced the product, and they indicated a high level of satisfaction with the product as is. Based on this Voice of the Customer data, the company changed its priorities from redesigning the product to getting potential customers to try it. They accelerated market launch by more than 6 months and saved millions in product development costs.
These assumptions can be hard to identify, because like doing sit-ups, they seem obviously correct. So the next time you are in a product launch meeting ask yourself these questions:
• What assumptions are we making?
• What evidence do we have to support these assumptions?
• Are we making decisions based on past behavior or do we have data to justify the outcome?
• What evidence should we gather to support challenge these assumptions?
• What is the best way to gather the required evidence?
However, don't spend too much time in these meetings. Dr. McGill has proven that sitting too long in one position is also bad for your back.
Neil Baron is an internationally recognized authority on selling and marketing innovative products, services and solutions. He has served in a variety of senior marketing and management roles at companies such as IBM, Digital Equipment Corporation, Sybase, Art Technology Group, Brooks Automation, and ATMI. In 2009, he started Baron Strategic Partners, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations launch groundbreaking products and services and reenergize older ones. Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://baronstrategic.com