Posts tagged “customer research”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Why You’re Doing Customer Research All Wrong [Inc.] – It comes as no surprise that many innovative ideas hit the cutting room floor before ever seeing the light of day in consumer testing. The author suggests that too many great ideas don’t get chosen for testing and this is where the problem lies. While I agree that this is a grave problem for customer research, it’s not nearly as reprehensible as the omission of consumers from ideation sessions, and the failure to converge in the ideation process. In fact, I’d argue that the problem could be averted with two steps upstream in this process. First, start with the end in mind when planning a brainstorming session and invite customers and executives to help generate stakeholder-inspired ideas. Secondly, make sure those ideas get clustered and prioritized before anyone leaves the room. Ideation should include both divergent and convergent thinking! This results in more collaborative value-added ideas and less ‘intuitive’ choices about which ones merit further testing.

Affinnova studied 100 testing campaigns that its clients had done in the past. Typically the testing process went like this: A company came up with a long list of potential ideas to test, whittled it down using mostly executives’ intuition, and then tested the much shorter list of ideas. Affinnova, on the other hand, took the initial brainstorming list and tested everything on it, presenting the ideas in groups and asking participants to select their favorites.

Looking To Hire And Keep Great Innovators? Focus On The 3 Rs [Co.Design] – When companies look inward in a quest for amping up their innovation capabilities, they undoubtedly see the potential of their human resources. The three Rs of getting and keeping innovative employees are Recruiting, Retraining and Rewarding. Given the very premise of the article a fourth R, Reflection, seems mighty important. While the ROI (yikes, another R word!) of a strategic debrief may be hard to justify in some cases, the cost of ignoring valuable lessons learned from experience can be catastrophic. Consider how many times companies learn the same lessons over and over again. It’s Ridiculous. Besides, a healthy organization that engages its employees in regular reflection is likely to keep those folks feeling engaged, valued and loyal, thereby reducing the need to look outside for more innovators.

Innovation relies on people more than other processes. This reliance on employees, management, and executives in an organization requires that the “right” people are attracted, and then given the appropriate tools and techniques for a sustained innovation success. Their passions and capabilities also must be ensured to align with the needs and expectations of the firm.

Building Self-Control, the American Way [New York Times] – Although this article is focused on parenting strategies for cultivating self-discipline, I think the lessons can be applied to nurturing innovative thinkers. This article talks about the importance of play in allowing children to practice and develop skills like self-control, self-esteem and social interaction. Companies who rely on their people to continually generate creative ideas should explore opportunities for productive play experiences that challenge and nurture their employees’ essential abilities to manage themselves through intrinsic motivation.

Fortunately for American parents, psychologists find that children can learn self-control without externally imposed pressure. Behavior is powerfully shaped not only by parents or teachers but also by children themselves. The key is to harness the child’s own drives for play, social interaction and other rewards. Enjoyable activities elicit dopamine release to enhance learning, while reducing the secretion of stress hormones, which can impede learning and increase anxiety, sometimes for years.


Son of survey

This comment in the bad survey design thread got me thinking further about where/when/what to do with surveys. It’s not my primary tool so some of these reflections take me a little longer than someone who makes their living as a quantitative researcher, for example.

A tiny new restaurant opened in our tiny town of Montara – the Montara Bistro. I dropped by yesterday to pick up a menu and saw that they are already looking for customer feedback.


So to some folks, this is a survey. But it’s next to useless.

Why? Their questions are not too bad, but they are conversational questions, and should be presented that way. They are the basis of a conversation. Handing someone a sheet of paper (with no room to fill in any response) and asking them for essays is ineffective. It’s not fair. These are the questions they want answers to, but sometimes you have to ask a series of questions to get that information. And you can’t decide ahead of time which questions to ask. You have to ask a question, listen to the response, and then choose your next one. You can’t do that on a piece of paper. You need to have real people talking to each other and exploring the issues that way.

Not to mention that the restaurant has been open for a day or two, and there’s a presumption of an in-depth relationship that hasn’t really been built yet. What do I think of the Bistro Vision? Ummm, I don’t care.

I love what this artifact tells you about the company; that they really want to get a dialog going. They don’t have the tools in place to do it yet. Maybe it’s backed up by the way they interact with customers who come in; I don’t know. But this won’t work at all.

And I think this sort of inquiry is what a lot of design students are doing; identifying some open-ended (i.e., requires the respondent to write sentences) questions and sending them out by email. Some people will respond. Some may even write a lot. But you can’t follow up unless you send out another email. And then it’s just a conversation.

As with everything you “send out” who it gets sent to is a factor. Sending something to 3 friends is a very different approach than something that is quantitative in nature.

Look at this artifact from a recent project (created by our partners, not us):

This contained 31 questions, only a few open-ended ones. There’s randomization where needed (so you can filter out order-effects, where the first or last item might be picked more frequently in a list), and a large enough sample so that results can be processed to lead to conclusions – comparisons between different factors (this is the stats part I’ve been talking about).

Attitude toward technology meets Age
Purchase habits meets Region (with Age)
Stores shopped meets Region (with Age)

Tons of work and tons of math goes into creating tables (that then get interpreted) like

As Paul Hogan (sorta) said “That’s not a survey, now that’s a survey!”

I hope this brings a bit more clarity to the discussion.


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