Many businesses are faithfully research-oriented. To that type of executive, the data that can be derived from robust research techniques (#1) is necessary to give them confidence to proceed along a new path. In some risk-averse companies, research professionals are engaged to conduct qualitative research (what, why), followed by quantitative research (how many, how much), followed by another round of qualitative research to test presentations of concepts to see if they resonate with the target audience. In many cases that is followed by test marketing, A/B testing, linguistic analysis, and SEO techniques to determine what works most effectively among the data presented by the research. But it doesn’t have to be that complex.
An insight is really an “AHA” moment, and often can be so seemingly simplistic that it feels like the “forehead slapping” moment popularized by the vegetable blend drink: I could have had a V-8! In other words, it seems so obvious that you wonder why it has never occurred to you, and the path forward now seems clear. In addition to the formal research techniques for developing insight, there are other sources to mine.
2. Customer outcomes analysis
This is a technique where you assemble a group – either internal to your organization, external, or a combination – to think about what “jobs” your customer is trying to accomplish, and how your product or service might fill that need. If a busy Mom wants a way to engage her toddler’s creative brain while saving the freshly painted walls from a terrible mess, the Crayola crayon that has been around for literally generations may not help her accomplish that task as well as the first-generation “Color Wonder” product that allows that fuschia and purple to “take” only on the specially designed for the purpose paper.
3. Front-line interviewing
Think about the fresh thinking new hires can bring to your organization. Every company develops orthodoxies over time – conventional wisdom that people hold so deeply they don’t even realize it. Ask new people: how did they do it where they came from? What is the most surprising thing about our company that you find different from your own background and beliefs? While you could come away from an interaction like this feeling more validated in your assumptions, it’s also true that you could be surprised, and come away curious about ways to look at a situation differently.
4. Become a customer
This is a particularly impactful way to generate insight. The old saying “walk a mile in the other person’s shoes” is a lesson that everyone should embrace from time to time. At one position I held in a very large corporation where I led our innovation function, my team was exploring a domain where our company had no experience whatsoever. So we decided to become a customer of that field. We wrote an RFI and asked for every bit of information we thought we needed to have. That led to more questions and so we kept it up: we wrote an RFP, interviewed finalists from across the country, and actually became a rather large customer within the industry. We could have stopped with the information gathering, but we wanted to experience the pleasure and pain of actual participation.
5. Customer journey mapping
Another thing that happens – particularly in big companies – is that each department or function sees the world and the customer through a different lens. Remember the parable about the blind men and the elephant? Each person described the elephant completely differently depending on where they touched the creature. So one useful method to discover an insight is to map your customer’s journey…from the moment they become aware of you and your product or service, through the consideration and evaluation of your offering, and on through purchase, trial, customer service, and brand experience. At every point along the journey a customer has an opportunity to be delighted or disappointed, and sometimes it can be very surprising where and why a breakdown or disappointment occurs. And often, these things are fairly easy to fix.
The important lesson is to always look through your customer’s eyes. Happy discovering!