What makes a great innovation? Is it a shiny new product? An improved method of service delivery? An updated business model which sends your profit margins through the roof? The fact is, a great innovation is something new or different, that adds value to your customers.
Far too often, I see organisations devote their resources (namely people, time or money) to developing the right solutions for the wrong problems. It can be very easy to assume we know what the customer wants and build something that seems like a sure win, only to see it completely flop in the market. Unfortunately, what we think the customer wants is often very different from what they actually want from your product or service. For great innovation, you need to place the customer at the heart of the innovation process – and I mean before you even start thinking about solutions. Take the time to do exploratory research, to talk to your customers and identify their biggest, most common frustrations with the solutions currently available to them. These areas of frustration represent the biggest opportunities for innovation!
If you want to start finding out what your customers really want, consider these important dos and don’ts of exploratory research:
- Don’t use pre-defined questions. E.g. a list of current features and asking how much they like/dislike them. Do use guiding questions that will enable them to talk about their frustrations and experiences. E.g. What do you find frustrating about X? It can also be helpful to ask for examples of what they mean.
- Don’t make assumptions about why something would be frustrating, as your own personal views will bias the data. Do ask probing questions to find out why that particular thing is so frustrating for them. If you get stuck, you can also ask them for any workarounds they may have to deal with this.
- Don’t jump into solutions mode. It can be tempting to start thinking about ways you could solve the customers’ problem then and there. This is only natural considering you’re undergoing exploratory research for this underlying purpose in the first place. Rest assured that lots of creative solutions can be developed another day. Do focus 100% of your energy on uncovering what the customer thinks, not what you think.
Of course, talking to your customers is just one way of identifying the biggest opportunities for innovation. If you’d like to find out more about exploratory research, have a comment or story to share, I’d love to hear it! You can find me on Twitter @fasttrackjudy or here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Thursday!