Outside-In Thinking or Inside-Out Thinking?

I have to admit I have been guilty of Inside-Out thinking a number of times in my career. Too many product decisions have been made based on internal opinions without external validation. So what's the alternative? Outside-In!

Let's consider some examples of inside-out thinking. See if you can recognize any of these common tendencies in your company:

Outside-in is a solid remedy for this common problem. Here are some thoughts on how to develop an outside-in mindset:

The problem with inside-out thinking (living in the ivory tower model) is that it is usually very difficult to understand the complete picture of market problems. We tend to see part of the picture and think we got it. Then we race back to HQ to build it. Solutions need to be built in the context of the total customer experience and that can only come when we really understand things from the target buyer's perspective. And it doesn't come from just talking to them. Generally you have to immerse yourself in their world.

Steve Blank wrote a terrific article on the auto industry and how many of the same lessons can be used today. One of the things I was impressed with was how Alfred Sloan, who took GM to a total dominant position in the auto industry, did a great job about getting out of the building. He visited dealers and suppliers and listened to customers. And it was based on much of this outside-in mentality that he and his team were able to develop strategies that catapulted the company to a leadership position in their market.

Sloan set a great example for all of us. We need to minimize inside-out thinking as much as possible and replace it with an outside-in model. We'll be far more successful.


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