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Dogfooding: How to Push Innovation by Changing Your Perspective

What’s the most important thing in your business?
by Conor O'Rourke | Apr 27 2015

If you said anything but “customer service,” well, Josh Linkner has a lesson or two for you.


In his new book, The Road to Reinvention, he demonstrates the importance of curiosity and willingness to see your company through a customer’s eyes.

Sometimes, success can just mean thinking about something from a different perspective. Being an expert in your field is definitely key to running a successful business, but it has its pitfalls as well. If you’re not careful, your industry-insider position—knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate—can cause you to have a completely different experience of your product than your customer does.

This problem is well known to software developers, who have devised a clever little trick to help them avoid it. They call it dogfooding: the practice of making it a company policy to have employees use their own products. The idea behind dogfooding is simply to encourage customer-centric thinking by forcing the employees to be their own customers. That way, the people who make the product are much more likely to encounter problems, bugs, and inconsistencies—problems that the customer is almost certainly already familiar with.

But dogfooding isn’t the sole provenance of software developers. Indeed, anyone with an interest in improving their business can use it. What dogfooding really is is improving the customer experience to make your product shine, and it all starts in your head.

Imagine, for a moment, that you run a karate studio, and you’d like to do something to show your customers that you’re the best dojo in town. How to do that? Well, you can get certified by the World Karate Federation, and place your shiny new plaque on the wall. After that? Maybe you can make it a policy to hire only certified teachers, and push that in your marketing.

So let’s say you do all that, but business still doesn’t improve. Stop. You’re thinking about it all wrong. Instead, just pretend you’re someone looking to find a karate class for their kid. Chances are, your WKF compliance is not really on this busy parent’s mind. But maybe the deplorable state of your customer bathroom is. Safe in your office, you never use that toilet or even have a reason to go in there. But your students do.

The key is putting yourself in a customer’s shoes. What does it feel like as she enters the studio. How does the studio smell? What does it look like?

Now ask yourself creative questions. What if you offered cool towels at the end of each session? Or played traditional Japanese music softly in the background? What other ways could you improve the sensory experience for your customers?

By encouraging customer-centric thinking in your business, you get to see it from angles that you wouldn’t otherwise. Failing to understand the customer-facing experience of your business means missing out on a huge opportunity to improve.

Josh Linkner’s The Road to Reinvention provides insights that can help you one-up the competition and provide better service to the people who really matter – your customers.

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