Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘innovation research’

Finding the Voice of the Customer

Posted by Plish on January 8, 2011

Humans are attuned to hearing other people’s voices.  Or rather, we have a tendency to hear and zero in on those things that pique our interest.  A unique, high-pitched voice squeaking about an experience with a company’s product catches our attention only if it’s in a language we can understand and only if it’s a product we care about.  If we speak English and the voice is German (well, we think it’s German because obviously, if we can’t speak it,  we’re guessing which language it is, right?) we tune the person out and relegate it to background noise.  If it’s not a product we care about, again, the conversation becomes background noise and we turn our attention to something else.  

This is only natural. We all have limited bandwidth of time and energy.  If  voices don’t somehow resonate with us, we turn our attention to those that are interesting or useful to what we are trying to accomplish.

But, businesses cannot afford to be deaf to any unique voices…

To make sure your company is effective at hearing the Voice Of the Customer (VOC), answer these simple questions with brutal honesty:

What language is your customer speaking?

Is the company fluent in this language?

Language here means more than just the same spoken words using the same alphabet and grammatical rules.  (Actually, really meaningful VOC can be obtained even when there is a disparity between the languages spoken.) Language here means the deeper  foundational dispositions of the customer.  It’s more than words.  It’s about actions, motivations and emotions.   It’s about getting past the customer’s vocal cords and getting into their hearts and heads. 

Customers can only be understood when there is empathy with them. 

Unfortunately, many VOC projects start all too easily with the premise that there is a common language between the company and the customer – it’s English (or French, German, Ukrainian, etc.), the language that the focus groups and questionnaires are done in.  Projects starting in this manner often end up with the VOC output sounding vaguely familiar.  Unfortunately, few will ask if the reason something sounds familiar is because it is an echo of the study sponsor’s voice.

Meaningful innovations seldom come from these types of VOC studies.  They instead come from those studies that truly understand the deeper language of the customer.  Products coming from these types of VOC studies, ultimately  leave customers speechless with delight.

That silence is the most powerful, vocal endorsement of all.


Posted in culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, Innovation Tools, Market Assessment, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want to Increase Creativity and Innovation? Touch and be Touched

Posted by Plish on August 5, 2010

We’ve all experienced the gentle pat on the back, or touch on the hand when things aren’t going well.  Well, it seems that these touches are helpful in more ways than we typically think.

Research has shown that touching is helpful in  a myriad of ways.

 According to the article:

A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the brain, prefrontal areas, which help regulate emotion, can relax, freeing them for another of their primary purposes: problem solving. In effect, the body interprets a supportive touch as “I’ll share the load.”

“We think that humans build relationships precisely for this reason, to distribute problem solving across brains,” said James A. Coan, a a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “We are wired to literally share the processing load, and this is the signal we’re getting when we receive support through touch.”

Some of my thoughts on applying this?

  1. Team building events can accomplish a lot more than just bring people together, but…
  2. Building teams needs to be done all the time.  There needs to be an active, ongoing building of esprit de corps, but…
  3. Perspectives regarding the touching of coworkers might need to be reassessed.  It’s interesting to think that current  ‘hands off’ practices might actually be hurting innovation.
  4. It seems obvious to say, but personal lives, the relationships people have outside of work, do make a difference in the workplace.
  5. People who are more tactile, more ‘touchy-feely’ might be a good addition to a team.
  6. Although it’s not directly mentioned in the article, the touching phenomenon might help explain the benefits of why having pets is a good thing.  Pets in the workplace, anyone?
  7. Customer service (think healthcare) should be open to allowing and fostering touching in the proper contexts so as to better treat people as whole beings.  This could also give customer service people more credence and build better bonds between customer and company.
  8. Massage therapy shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but as a necessity in the workplace.
  9. I’d be interested to know if things like brushing hair, or touches like those experienced at beauty parlors or hair dressers, has positive effect.   It does in senior care facilities, why not use it in other places?
  10. How might technology be used to foster human interaction and touch?

What are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Authenticity, Biology, creativity, culture of innovation, Evolution, innovation, love, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Society, stress, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Simple Method for Trend Forecasting

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2009

I came across this  article on trend forecasting and put together a little time-line to show approximately what is going on when new products come to market.

development process michaelplishka2009

Although the above chart is somewhat simplistic, it breaks down the phases of technology development.  I used a 20 year cycle as mentioned in the article although as soon as a product is introduced into the market the Refinement phase tends to get accelerated in an effort to gain full Acceptance quicker. 

That being said, 10 years of incubation in R&D for a ‘new to the world’ product is probably a good rule of thumb.  It may be longer or shorter depending on factors such as if the research is being done by private industry or the government.

So, how do you do your own trend forecasting?

1.  Got to Google News and do an advanced searchRead the rest of this entry »

Posted in Case Studies, Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Science, Start-Ups, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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?

Posted in Case Studies, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Market Assessment, Research | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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