Pre-seeding a solution precludes a breakthrough

“If I had to ask people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

“‘Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?’ I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said, ‘No, thank you’.” – Jeff Bezos on the Amazon Echo

What do Henry Ford and Jeff Bezos have in common? They’d make terrible market researchers. To them, and research sceptics everywhere, market research exists to serve one purpose – mitigate risk.

… Do our customers like the game?

… Will consumers like this flavour of toothpaste?

… Will this new ad campaign offend my target?

As a result, market researchers often find themselves invited to the table far too late, tasked with measuring the success of what will be rather than uncovering what can be. If this describes a situation that you find yourself in, then I have one question – Are you calling out this woefully myopic view?

Successful innovation opportunities need to address a consumer need, fit with your brand and business, and take form in a carefully designed product. Whether you’re uncovering unmet needs for upfront idea generation or encouraging adoption of new products and services, let’s focus on how you can develop and embed a consumer-led, commercially viable innovation approach.

Leading with outcomes invites creative solutions

Jobs-to-be-done is the idea that consumers ‘hire’ products to accomplish needs. For example, I don’t need a quarter-inch drill-bit, I need a quarter-inch hole. Engaging with consumers early through a blend of observation and questions leads us to understand what ‘hacks’ they’re leveraging to get tasks done as well as an understanding of their underlying motivations. The best innovation ideas address fundamental human needs. It’s true, no one would have wanted the Echo as Jeff Bezos described, but perhaps they would have expressed a need to uncomplicate the routine.

Focus on the implicit rather than stated

How many times have you seen consumers provide overwhelmingly positive feedback on a product in testing only to have it fail in the market? There’s a simple reason for it – we’re creatures of habit, not intentions. The trouble is that traditional methodologies have long invited hyper-rationalized responses that are based on far more information than would be the in-market reality. To avoid this, it’s vital that we get the concept right, avoid insights that start with “have you ever found that…?”, and place a greater emphasis on the emotional delivery of an idea.

Look for the little things

Whether it’s finding true whitespace or exploring the viability of a concept, if you lock yourself into a framework, methodology, or set of questions, you’re bound to reach the outcome you’re chasing. Instead, start by first stepping back, inviting your audience to push ideas in different directions, explore meaning and purpose unaided, and see what they see. As it goes in life, the best things come when you’re not actively looking for them.

Agree, disagree, or want to chat further about optimising your innovation process? Get in touch. Remember, there’s no one ‘right way’ to explore the unknown!

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