Where Science Meets Muse

Some Insights into Office Max’s Innovation

Posted by Plish on June 25, 2009

(pic courtesy of businessweek.com)

(pic courtesy of businessweek.com)

Please check out this excellent article over at Business Week about Office Max’s innovation efforts.

There are some great insights into how they chose to redefine how and what they sell.  Some great guidelines for innovating as well:


• Focus on Unspoken Needs

Needs represent market opportunities, but consumers are unlikely to come out and say, for instance, “I want a better way to label file folders.” Researchers read between the lines to uncover real needs.

• Study customers in their environment

You’ll learn far more observing people’s everyday behaviors than you ever would by asking them questions in a focus group.

• Watch for Contradictions

When someone says one thing and does another, that’s often the sign of an opportunity.

• Identify Your Target Customer

In-depth ethnographic studies usually involve no more than a dozen subjects, so make sure they are the right ones. Depending on the project, it might be important to include subjects from different regions or countries, or to get a mix of urban and rural participants. A food company, for instance, needs to understand regional differences in eating habits, while a pet food maker might want to study the differing needs of city dwellers and out-of-towners.

• Use Multiple Tools to Record Material

In addition to written notes, the researchers used video, which allowed them to capture rich detail. Audio is useful when researchers want to be less obtrusive. An advantage of still photographs is that they are easy to sort later as researchers review materials looking for common problems and other valuable insights.

Anything else you could add to this?


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