9. Outcomes


Outcomes are the external state Users associate with their internal desires. When the appropriate desired state occurs, the User feels satisfied. An Outcome is the result of something happening. Causing the desired state is the goal of innovation.

Outcome is an observable state resulting from a cause.

Properly identifying Outcomes is essential for innovation. An innovator can’t reliably satisfy desires unless the desired States for all the required Outcomes are known. Traditional creativity based approaches to innovation skip this step. Without knowing the goal, the results are random. Even after filtering ideas through a Staged Gate process with 7 Stages the failure rate of new products is 40%, nearly random. The high level of failure for new product development (NPD) is because Outcomes are not properly defined.

Outcomes are observable. Outcomes have States such as speed, color, or temperature that can be observed or measured. The State can also be an event that did or did not happen. Once the Outcome is defined, you don’t need to ask the user if it has been achieved. You can observe the result and determine for yourself if the desired State has been met.

Doctors use a thermometer to check a patient’s temperature rather than asking them if they think they have a fever. Objective Outcomes make it possible to reliably determine States.

Optical Illusion Shape

Illustration 39: Optical Illusion Shape

Perception can be wildly inaccurate. Optical illusions demonstrate the unreliability of perception. All the boxes in Illustration 39 are squares of the same size. To most people it appears that the squares are trapezoids that change in height from left to right.

You can verify that each box is square and the same size by measuring it. The measurement is objective; it does not depend on your perception. You can tell someone else or even a machine how to measure the boxes and get the same result each time.

Optical Illusion Shade

Illustration 40: Optical Illusion Shade

The shade of both the center squares in Illustration 40 are the same. The center square on the right appears darker to most people. The mistaken perception is caused by the tendency for the nervous system to make relative comparisons.

A similar perception error can be created by placing a warm and a cold object near to each other on your skin. The relative difference will mistakenly be perceived as extreme heat. You will feel like your skin is burning even though separately each object is perfectly comfortable to touch.

Optical illusions appear to people with normal functioning vision. When you factor in vision problems like color blindness or astigmatisms, individual perceptions can be drastically different from reality. This is why observable objective Outcomes are so important.

Using objective Outcomes greatly improves the success of innovation projects. Objective Outcomes remove the two most significant causes of random results of new product development. The users subjective fluctuating perception are taken out of the process and communication errors are eliminated. Everyone can work from a consistent well defined set of requirements.

Categories of States

The State of any Outcome is classified into one of three categories:

  • desired
  • undesired
  • neutral

States can be desired, undesired, or neutral in four different ways:

  • more
  • less
  • matches
  • does not match

When each of the Outcomes of a scenario are in the desired State the overall goal is achieved. If one Outcome is more important than another, users may accept a neutral State for a less important Outcome as long as the critical Outcome is in the desired State.

You don’t need to describe every possible State in detail. All that is important is identifying what makes a State desired, undesired or neutral. For instance, the color red is commonly used for warnings or danger. You don’t want to see a red indicator light on a machine turned on. A red light is undesired. Anything else is an acceptable neutral State. Knowing the machine is running properly is a useful feature so it might be green, blue, white, or any color except red to indicate it is on. The “on light” would be a desirable State. No light would be a neutral State.

 Temperature Desired,  Metric 20°C, 22°C, and 25°C are approximately 68°F, 72°F, and 77°F

Illustration 41: Temperatures

A comfortable room temperature is 22°C, this is the desirable State. Less than 20°C or more than 25°C are undesirable. Thermostats don’t turn on the heat or the air conditioning when the temperature isn’t exactly 22°C. There is a neutral range above and below the desired temperature. The temperature is allowed to rise a little above and a little below the desired temperature but prevented from becoming undesired.

Outcome Diagram

The average human can effectively differentiate 7 plus or minus 2 values for a single variable. (Miller, 1956). This is why phone numbers were originally designed to have 7 digits.

Since the human mind is limited in how many items it can simultaneously focus on, the number of Outcomes needed to satisfy a desire is limited. Most scenarios can be described using between 5 and 9 Outcomes which is 7 plus or minus 2.

Sometimes a Scenario is complex. It might require dividing the scenario into smaller sub-scenarios to be manageable. In most cases you will find that the complexity is a result of scenarios that have been combined and can actually be treated separately.

The fact that people can’t effectively pay attention to more than approximately 7 items at once is one of the reasons Predictive Innovation can describe the entire innovation space for a product or service.

All the Outcomes for a scenario can be written as If…Then statements.

If A and B and C Then my desires are satisfied for this Scenario.

Each of the clauses A, B, and C are Outcomes. When the desired States are achieved for each of the Outcomes, the user’s desires for that scenario are satisfied.

 Outcome Diagram

Illustration 42: Outcome Diagram

Predictive Innovation uses Outcome Diagrams to graphically represent these If…Then statements. Outcome Diagrams are a type of flow chart. Instead of showing steps in a process it displays all the conditions or “If” statements to achieve the overall “Then” goal.

Outcome Diagrams can show sequential relationships of the different Outcomes. Illustration 42 shows that A and B must occur before C can occur. Outcome Diagrams are essential tools for innovation.

Miller, G. A. (1956). “The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information”. Psychological Review 63 (2): 81-97. http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Miller/

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