Growing Talent Development Firms Product Strategy II

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

In last month’s blog I addressed product strategy from a marketing lens. It described using the Ansoff Matrix to determine whether to create new or existing products for new or existing markets. This two-by-two table can help plan resources accordingly depending on the decisions made. But, my first blog post didn’t discuss the characteristics of a successful product in our business, once those strategic marketing decisions have been made.

There are numerous definitions of what makes a product successful, from how much it sells to how much its users like it. Certainly, the two are intertwined in that if an end user doesn’t like a product, they are not likely to purchase it, certainly not repurchase it. But, what are the elements of an effective learning and development product or program? There’s no single answer, but here are three factors to look at while creating a highly successful and sustainable product or service offer.

The first factor is its overall socioeconomic design. A great example is IDEO. This firm is widely known for the concept of design thinking in the context of creating innovative products and services. The three factors it presents as necessary ingredients of a successful offering are viability, feasibility, and desirability. Viability refers to the business case for the offer, answering questions such as:

  • Will the solution address the business goals of the buyer?
  • Will it honor the buyer’s budget?
  • Will it provide an acceptable return on investment?

According to IDEO, feasibility refers to the technical demands of the solution and addresses the questions around the availability of the technology needed to power the solution, the time it will take to install and implement the solution, and the organization’s capability to actually make it work. Finally, desirability simply refers to the desires of the end users. Will the solution fit the needs people have? Will it appeal to them? Will they actually want it?


The second product success factor involves the instructional integrity of the offer. Basically, does it do what it says it will do? In training and development parlance, this can be interpreted to mean is it magical, motivational, memorable, meaningful, and measurable? Are these elements sufficiently incorporated into the offer such that end users think, act, and interact in a more effective manner than they did prior to experiencing it?

The third factor for effective solution design applies more of a pragmatic, direct, customer-based framework by addressing the solution’s usability, capability, and visibility. By usability, we are referring to how easy it is for the end user to engage with the offer. Is it easier, intuitive, and simpler in how it is deployed? By capability, we mean what exactly it does, what problems it solves, and what it takes to solve them. Lastly, visibility refers to who knows about it in the first place and its potential for sustained use and results.

Whether your solution design and development approach focuses on the socioeconomic factors, instructional integrity, a customer-based dimension, or a combination of all three, it is critical to have a set of criteria against which you can both assess its success likelihood and measure the impact of the solution you are creating. Any of these approaches to creating effectively sustainable solutions in the talent development world will work. Indeed, overlaying and integrating the three might be ideal.

How have you approached the design and development of your customer solution? What success criteria are you using? How have you gone about measuring your success?

For more insight, check out The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm.

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