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Kano & Intangibles

Kano & Intangibles

| On 05, May 2019

Darrell Mann

I’m never sure whether the Kano Diagram (above) has fallen from favour and disappeared, or whether it has become so ubiquitous that no-one feels a need to talk about it anymore. If I had to place a bet, I’d say that the answer was more likely to be the former than the latter. Mainly because I think that, even though most people that see the model instinctively ‘get it’ conceptually, it is a different matter to turn the concept into something that gives innovation teams anything meaningful to get their teeth into. Sure, creating more ‘delighters’ is a good thing to do, but what kind of delighters are we talking about? In this sense the model is a classic example of the ‘insert miracle here’ kind of creativity tool. The model tells us to look for delighters, but doesn’t tell us where or how to look.

I also think that it is somewhat incomplete. That or else maybe time has moved on. The idea of the three different types of improving feature – delighters, performance (‘one dimensional’ in the above version of the Model) and basic (‘must be’s) needs the addition of a fourth. The first three form a kind of an evolutionary sequence, in that a feature that delights a customer today, is unlikely to still do so in a few weeks’ time. Delighters devolve to things that customers ‘expect’ to be present, and these in turn devolve to being things that we only notice and get annoyed about if they’re not present any more. If we continue this feature ‘devolution’ journey, there are also features that become irrelevant. I expect my car to have four wheels, but I no longer care if it has a cassette player in it.

The addition of a fourth part to the Kano story conveniently allows for the creation of a meaningful 2×2 matrix. The two dimensions of this matrix relate to satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Although the pair might at first glance appear to be two ends of the same axis, by positioning them as two orthogonal axes it becomes possible to visualize situations where, for example, customers can experience both high satisfaction and high dissatisfaction. The four quadrants of this satisfaction/dissatisfaction matrix then relate to the four types of design feature like this:

Figure 1: 2×2 Matrix Version Of Kano Diagram Showing 4 Improvement Feature Types

And once we have this model, we can see how a customer’s perception of the different improvement feature types devolves over time. At first something might ‘delight’ us. Delight is all about high satisfaction and comes with little or no element of dissatisfaction since we didn’t expect to see the delighter and therefore don’t miss it if it happens not to be there. The delight emotion tends to be relatively transient in nature, and sooner or later devolves to the ‘performance’ category. This is where a customer may experience satisfaction or dissatisfaction depending (approximately linearly) with the amount of the feature they do or don’t receive. Later still, at the basic, ‘must be’ stage, the satisfaction component disappears and the only emotion the customer might experience is the dissatisfaction that comes if the expected feature is no longer there. Finally, then, comes the ‘irrelevant’ quadrant, the final devolution of a design feature to the point where, like the redundant in-car cassette player, it neither satisfies nor dissatisfies. The overall devolution trajectory thus looks something like this:

Figure 2: Dynamics Of (4) Kano Diagram Improvement Feature Types

The main value of the ‘irrelevant’ quadrant is it reminds us to think about attributes and features of an existing design that might have become redundant and thus may be considered for elimination from the system. It gives us a little more granularity around the ‘insert miracle here’ problem, but not much. We still have no idea, for example, about what new features we might look to introduce to a system, or how much of them we might look to offer to our customers.

To begin to solve this problem, it is necessary to integrate the 2×2 matrix into another one. When making models more complex than they currently are, we should always be wary, since it can easily become the case that we will put people off using the tool. Fortunately, in this case, the 2×2 matrix we need to integrate the Kano version into is one that TRIZ/SI users will very likely already be familiar with. The matrix in question is our Outcome Map, and the combined version might look something like this:

Figure 3: Integrated Kano 2×2 And Outcome Map

If thoroughness is an objective, thinking about and potentially filling all sixteen of these boxes is probably the very definition. Especially if we extend the story – as we no doubt should if we find ourselves working on a real project – to also constructing the picture for each individual ‘me’ stakeholder, at each Moment of Truth.

This is perhaps what Thomas Edison meant when he talked about innovation being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Except we haven’t started to do any of the hard work of actually building and testing whatever ideas the analysis might throw up.

It’s a guarantee (from me) that the ‘a-ha’ insight will happen in at least one of the boxes in the overall array of boxes. If you’re as lazy as I am, however, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the energy or persistence to give them all the justice they deserve. In which case, you either spread the load across multiple different team members, or, if you don’t have the luxury of having a ‘team’ to do the analysis with you, you can focus on the boxes that are more likely to deliver the insights. It’s still early days for this tool, but we already clearly know that, because the biggest innovations often start with the solution of a contradiction, and that in turn offers up some kind of new ‘delighter’, the two most important boxes in the model are these two:

Figure 4: Integrated Kano 2×2 And Outcome Map – Best Bang-Per-Buck

And if this still doesn’t do a good enough job to close the gap between problem definition and generating the right solution, all we need to add to this story is the  recognition that, when it comes to the ‘intangibles’, and moreover, intangibles at the first principle level, humans are pretty simple creatures: we want more Autonomy, Belonging, Competence and Meaning. ABC-M.

The find-the-delighter questions thus become:

  • What new feature or attribute would give an Autonomy delight for the individual?
  • What new feature or attribute would give an Autonomy delight for the people around them?
  • What new feature or attribute would give a Belonging delight for the individual?
  • What new feature or attribute would give a Belonging delight for the people around them?
  • What new feature or attribute would give a Competence delight for the individual?
  • What new feature or attribute would give a Competence delight for the people around them?
  • What new feature or attribute would give a Meaning delight for the individual?
  • What new feature or attribute would give a Meaning delight for the people around them?

Hopefully, now we’re close enough that designing for intangible-delight is well within the realms of possibility. Next month, an example. For now, an opportunity for readers to think about using the questions on an example of their own.