Don’t Worry About the Elephant in the Room, Look for the Chameleons
Posted by Plish on June 30, 2016
You’ve got multiple experts in a room. They’re all giving their opinions on the state of a market, or a new product. Very often this leads to the manifestation of proverbial Elephant in the Room – the obvious issue no one wants to mention because it’s embarrassing, or taboo, as it has implications that could impact the project in a negative way.
While no one wants to talk about the elephant, the good news is that it’s there. Yes, no one is talking about it (yet), but if the culture is such that accountability is valued more than meeting deadlines, the elephant will be revealed and it will get talked about. (If there are negative ramifications for saying something important just because it will negatively impact a product launch, you’ve got bigger problems than the elephant*.)
But very often, there are insights in your Voice of Customer (VOC) feedback that aren’t obvious, that won’t get talked about or dealt with – they’re Chameleons.
Chameleons are more dangerous to your project than elephants (I’m speaking with regards to VOC type data, or any situation where people are interpreting what others believe or are doing. I realize chameleons are cute benign reptiles🙂 ) . This is because people don’t know what they don’t know. But, just because something isn’t known, doesn’t mean it can’t be known, or that there aren’t tell-tale signs present.
Since you can’t see the Chameleon directly, you have to look indirectly for the shadows – Shifting shadows, a glimpse of movement. It’s things that are implied, not things that are obvious. It’s the nebulous things, the directions that are inferred from what is being said and done, not the words themselves.
This is important, because the words themselves are going to be the same words that members of the VOC panel will use when describing the situation to your competition. If you want to have a product or service that is different and superior to what everyone else does, look for the Chameleon.
What are some tricks for seeing the Chameleon?
When dealing with VOC, a textual analysis is a great place to start. It can reveal underlying dispositions and assumptions. It can also show what types of metaphors, and thus what contexts people are using when they talk about your product. I was once part of VOC feedback and noticed that certain subgroups of clinicians consistently referred to certain medical devices using military-like terms: cocked, captured, loaded, etc. No one really noticed it because those terms are ubiquitous. I did some textual analysis and noticed that there was another subgroup that rarely used those terms. This was a Chameleon!
So I raised the question, do we want people using a war/battle metaphor for this surgical device, or do we want the market to use, and experience, a different, more healing metaphor?
The other tip is to pay close attention to what people do, not only what they say. Body language, rituals, procedures, actions of any type, can give tremendous insight and reveal the Chameleons that everyone else will miss.
I once researched a medical procedure and realized the doctor used a particular motion again and again. The doctor never mentioned he made the movement, but he did it every procedure. The kicker is that no products on the market leveraged that particular movement. So I rolled that motion into the product design, creating a more ergonomic, simple, and cost effective to make, product.
Remember, do textual analysis and analyze what people do. By being cognizant of these two tips, you’ll be well on your way to recognizing the Chameleons when they become present. It’s well worth looking for them. Sometimes they hide right next to the elephants.😉
*- Actually this is a Cultural, or Corporate Chameleon.