All that glitters is not gold!
Today most companies claim to be customer-centric – especially when it comes to innovation. Agile innovation processes are implemented, design thinking, or comparable methodologies are applied, consumer research is performed and even workspaces are adapted to support the process in the best way.
But why is it, that we still see so few breakthrough innovations, that still so many new products fail in the market or that outcoming concept ideas just do not convince senior management?
Obviously, there are a lot of pitfalls along an innovation process but from our project experience there is one outstanding core issue: poorly performed customer research that is leading to wrong insights and assumptions. Needless to say, propositions based on such a foundation are doomed to fail.
But where is the problem?
When it comes to “understanding the customer”, cutting corners is common and methodologies are often applied the wrong way. Even when corporations hire dedicated innovation agencies, methodologically sound research is not always ensured.
As a result, the fundamental step of insight generation is often the key weakness in innovation processes. The consequences may be grave: from an outside perspective, it appears as if everything followed a standardised process and is based on thoroughly analysed customer insights. But in the worst case, a derived, novel value proposition is only based on few personal opinions, poorly documented and interpreted results and biased by own agendas – leading ultimately to market failure.
The reason behind is simple: innovators are innovators, not researchers. They are often good in leading the process, moderation of groups and developing ideas and prototypes – but sometimes not in generating valid, reliable insights. Especially under pressure of time or when budget restrictions prevail, cutting corners is common and methodologies are often applied the wrong way. The key point is, there is often no authority controlling the innovator and the quality of their research.
Our advice is clear: Don’t make false economies! Having actionable customer insights is the biggest asset of any innovation project. Plan enough time in the process and make sure to have thorough research experts who are empowered to assert themselves when it comes to methodological shortcuts. But be cautious: the corporate researcher is usually not the best person for this role – simply because their way of working is usually not compatible with innovation processes.
A savvy toolbox for savvy innovators
the savvy company is able to offer a proven set of research techniques while upholding highest methodological standards, leveraging every innovation process. As these are complex, your demands might well differ depending on where you are at in the process. We are happy to customise our tools to optimally suit your project stage and distinct requirements. We collect and interpret the data and draw strategic conclusions – within days. What is setting us apart from our competition? Our ability to continuously take on the clients’ business perspective while ensuring the needs of customers are heard and taken into account. So, we do not just deliver data, we paint a strategic picture that is going to set you apart from your competition.
TO IMPROVE YOUR INNOVATION PROCESS
- Invest in proper research from the beginning – The better you understand your customer, his motivations and his behaviours, the more innovation areas you will discover and the more targeted your product will be in the end. Only if you talk to a sufficient number of people of the target group, you will have adequate bandwidth.
- Be pragmatic – but not too much – Sometimes you can answer your research questions with very simple methodologies. Sometimes you can even skip your research at all – proving the obvious would be a waste of time and energy. But whatever you do, always be aware where the limits are and how robust your findings are. Just because you spoke to one teenager who does not use Facebook, you cannot claim social media is dead.
- Install a policeman – Sometimes innovation projects are taking a wrong turn. There is an interesting finding coming up, people start to develop ideas, the group celebrates them and ultimately you end up with a solution for a problem you did not want to solve. Although we do not like the idea of supervision, it is helpful to have a person making sure that everything developed can be traced back to the original business problem or the agreed opportunity areas.
- Bring a friend – Actively involve stakeholders into your qualitative research. If it is a focus group, bring as many people as possible behind the mirror. In case of a contextual interview, just take a stakeholder from the project along as a listener or note-taker. Especially for non-customer facing employees, this is almost in any case an eye-opening and motivating experience.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate – Sometimes we tend to assume everybody has the same knowledge like us. This is usually not the case, especially as soon as not every stakeholder was involved in the research process. Make sure everybody gets the full picture. Present the findings, discuss them and repeat them again and again. People need to understand the insight before acting upon it.
- Focus your test – A common mistake is testing a proposition without a clear plan. Before setting up the test scenario, ask yourself what your biggest uncertainties are and focus your test on clarifying these questions.