From the desk of Carole Schmidt
A client complained that management is pushing for new products on shelf in 6 months “so we have to get research done ASAP and move this along.” Yet, that same management bellyaches when launches fall short ofprojected forecasting. We jointly observed that with the increased speed to market, qualitative research is sometimes treated as another “check off” on the long list of deadlines. Key stakeholders witness only a portion of the interviews or attend other meetings while “participating” in research, distracted from getting close to the customer.
So, in the pressure-cooker of new product development, how do you increase the value of and engagement in the research without adding steps? How do you possibly find time to stop and smell the insights? Integrate incubation and reflection.
Step-up the up-front. Invest in a professionally facilitated “Wonder Session.” Bring your team physically together to explore the business challenge before research is scheduled. One half-day together on the front side of research will improve design, fuse the team, and ensure greater success on the back end. Many of us at DRA are certified in facilitating creative problem solving (CPS). We can help you identify the targets whose opinions matter most. Explore methods to determine which customer interface will yield the best learning. Review every team member’s objectives to discover the more compelling “problem” underneath. Discovering the team’s real needs is where research value begins. And now the team is vested in the outcome.
Dial up the debriefings. After three days of online ethnography, too many concrete aisles of Costco shopalongs, or 12 hours in the dark behind a focus group mirror, and team viewers slink out one-by-one before the lightscome on, “uh, because I have an early morning meeting with management.” Squelch the desertion! As a research buyer, demand a no-holds-barred, candid recap of the voice of the customer. DRA has it down—give us 20 minutes post research (or over breakfast the next morning), we’ll grab an easel and you’ll leave with 5 pages: Key findings. Hypotheses. Risks. Emergent opportunities. Next steps. Heck, we’ll even buy breakfast.
Deliberate the deliverable. Decision in a hurry? Maybe a work session with the full team (ending in specific action step assignments) is more effective than a written report! Bring the research to life? We can deliver a terrific video that captures customers showing and telling the research insights themselves! Need the research to inspire long-term efforts? Dedicate an office wall for our visually-compelling, oversize posters that graphically tell the research story.
Bottom line: Incubation and reflection will strengthen the study and your team, leading to more thoughtful design, richer insights, and ultimately, smarter business decisions.