Whirlpool’s Big Mistake (or Don’t Forget Your Customers)

Posted on by in Business, Creativity/Innovation, Customer Service, Leadership, Remarkability

Have you ever had a “great idea” that just didn’t work? Well, you’re not alone.  Back in the late ‘90’s Whirlpool realized they had a problem.  After a decade of strategic initiatives, they were no better off than they were a decade earlier (oops!). They were in a commodity market where just about every company’s home appliances looked like everyone else’s. The solution: innovate!

So a handpicked group of 25 European “creatives” spent a year in the Italian Alps with the goal of dreaming up new products and services that would differentiate Whirlpool from all of its competitors.  The result.  A year later, this group of handpicked “creatives” reported back with their favorite idea—an internet business that would enable people to race across the world on stationary bikes via the web (oops). 

In its next round, Whirlpool hired 10 consultants from Gary Hamel’s, Strategos management consultancy, who spent a year training top employees in innovation concepts.  Yet, again, their resulting ideas were all useless (oops again!). Why? Because all along, the people trying to innovate at Whirlpool, forgot the most important ingredient to creating something remarkable—they forgot their customers.

Innovation means nothing if it doesn’t meet a customer’s needs or wants (or a family member’s or a church member’s or an employee’s).  Remarkable is always measured by whether or not the person receiving the action (or product) is moved to positively remark to others about the experience they had with your product (or service or meal or date or event, etc.).

So as you look at what you’re trying to innovate or make more remarkable this week, are you simply coming up with ideas that you think are remarkable? Or ones that your customers (or friends or family members) think are remarkable? Remember, you don’t want to make the Whirlpool mistake (which cost them years and millions of dollars, plus incalculable lost revenues)!

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