A clear definition of innovation, leadership who supports it and employees empowered to execute it are hallmarks of a strong innovation-oriented company. But, as my colleague Paul Donagher noted in Innovation Journey: Is It Better to be Lucky or Good?, the voice of the consumer is also important to product development research though including the right kind of consumer along the Innovation Journey is critical.
To include consumers in idea generation, we need a repeatable and reliable process that produces groundbreaking, market-relevant concepts by bringing creative individuals and forward-thinking consumers into the innovation process. This consumer-oriented process includes the following steps:
- Pinpoint. Begin by determining where you want to go with this process. What are your expectations? What are your manufacturing or development limitations? What goal are you trying to achieve by including consumers in the process? Using proven fact finding and problem solving principles, you can key in on specific areas for innovation work, typically in a focused work session onsite.
- Aspire. The next step is to ideate with consumers. Steve Jobs was an incredible visionary – the likes of which the world has rarely seen. It’s a sliding scale from there and, as we in research are acutely aware, the typical consumer is not wired for such creativity and innovative thinking. However, a few consumers are further down the path than others. By ideating with consumers who have been tested for high levels of creativity and trained in innovation techniques, you can fill the innovation pipeline with a large number of starter ideas. Typically, this qualitative data collection happens through online or in-person, multi-day ideation sessions.
- Trial: Then select a number of those starter ideas for development into trial concepts. Working with stakeholders, you can craft these ideas into concepts within the context of your goals and competencies.
- Hone: Just as some consumers are highly creative, others are naturally skeptical of new products and services, and are especially adept at providing robust feedback about concepts. These consumers identify needs and problems before typical consumers and often develop new solutions themselves. They’re willing to wait for the “right” product or service. It is with these lead users that we then iteratively refine and ready concepts for introduction.
PATH grounds the innovation efforts on consumer needs, helping ensure the results are relevant and actionable. It is a modular, customizable, repeatable approach that increases the effectiveness of consumer innovation design. And it expands the pool of new product ideas by tapping into the creative and evaluative abilities of consumers and potential customers.
If you’re interested in learning how Market Strategies can help your product innovation process, email me.