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The Handbook of Technology and Innovation Management by Scott Shane

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3.3. Customer Needs in the Innovation Process

Figure 3.4 outlines the major steps involved in the 'fuzzy front-end' of the innovation process (e.g., Otto and Wood, 2001; Ulrich and Eppinger, 2004). Understanding customer needs is a key input into what has become known as the voice of the customer (VOC). Originating in the total quality management movement, the VOC and quality function deployment (QFD) enable marketing, design, engineering, R&D, and manufacturing to communicate effectively across functional boundaries (e.g., Hauser and Clausing, 1988; Griffin and Hauser, 1992; 1993; Shillito, 2001; Dahan and Hauser, 2002a; Akao and Mazur, 2003). This cross-functional communication is crucial to ensure that development efforts focus on innovations that are feasible, salable, and desirable (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.4. The fuzzy front-end of new product development.

The VOC includes identifying a set of detailed customer needs, as well as summarizing these needs into a hierarchy where each need is prioritized[] with respect to its customer importance (e.g., Griffin and Hauser, 1993; Iansiti and Stein, 1995). Prioritizing customer needs is important because it allows the cross-functional development team to make necessary tradeoff decisions when balancing the costs of meeting a customer need with the desirability of that need relative to the entire set of customer needs. The VOC ...

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