3 methods guaranteed to improve your innovation process

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In literally every example we’ve seen where clients have done any of these steps, no matter the category or country, it has delivered enormous benefits.


What follows is the result of our learnings over the last 6 years in business, specialising in qualitative video research techniques and methodologies on 4 continents.

1) See your Competitors’ products through a Consumer’s Eyes

A competitor of yours launches a product somewhere in the world. You ask a few of the target consumers in that market to self-record a video that captures their experience in buying and then using this new product.

And I don’t mean a 30-second talking head “voxpop”. 

I mean recording their entire experience of buying and using it in a real situation.

  • Show what it is like to open.
  • How does it smell?
  • How does it make them feel?
  • How does it compare to what they currently use?

The key is that it’s all about the observed behaviour.  Way more than the words.

Way more than the words.

Once you have collected the videos, get some of the key stakeholders in your company to watch them. Ask them to take notes on observed behaviours. And since the videos are taken in the natural arena of use, ask them to look beyond the person. To look at the backdrop. To listen to background noises. Ignore the transcript… to a certain extent… because you will also be looking for differences between what folks say, and what they actually do.

Such a simple task really. One that can be instigated, generated and collected in a matter of days.

It will mean you can start to form gold encrusted consumer-led hypotheses based on observed behaviours in real situations.

Bonus: It will help to easily connect everyone involved with the people that matter (the consumer). It’s what video is extremely good at. Ask Hollywood.

2) Observe the emotion and behaviour as consumers respond to your concepts and early-stage prototypes

You’ve seen what the competition is up to. You know how the consumers feel. What they think. What they do.

So now it’s your turn.

Place your own concepts or prototypes in the hands of these target consumers and ask them to self-record videos… especially when they are using, looking or touching them for the first time.

Important to note: you will not get the same results if you record a focus group, it has to be in context.

Observing the authentic emotional responses and behaviours of target consumers in-situ adds a new level of insight.

The best ideas will rise to the top because your consumers don’t care about the egos of an idea’s originator – they simply come at it from the angle of “does it do it for me”.

From these blunt yet very real appraisals, simple hypotheses can quickly emerge about the opportunities, barriers and ideas for optimisation.

(I should not have to say this, but sadly I do, if you ask people within your company to do this “because they are consumers as well”, do not expect the same results).

3) After you have launched the product do a post-launch review

You know the drill.

Get it back into the hands of your customers. Get them recording its use in the real situations in which it actually is being used.

It is a magical-multi-clue-generating machine. What’s hitting home? What’s lost in translation? All through the undeniable consumer’s lens.

And the wonderful thing about video is that, in addition to the lessons you have learned, the same footage can be used to demonstrate what you have observed to both internal and external stakeholders. (We have seen this used very effectively in deletion defences with the retailers.)

Why is observation not part of every NPD process?

For many companies, the existing innovation process is making it hard for people to experiment with ways to improve it.

This is rarely because the process is already optimised.

It’s usually because following an existing process is often rewarded more than any efforts to improve it.

“No rocking any boats, OK?”

If you want evidence of this,  ask people internally why so little effort is placed on the post-launch review when it is, without question, the best opportunity to learn and a crucial part of the stage-gate process.

Be Brave!

In literally every example we’ve seen where clients have done any of the above steps, no matter the category or country, it has delivered enormous benefits.

While agencies like Watch Me Think provide a scalable end-to-end solution to do this systematically and globally, the benefits from the above steps can be achieved by anyone with a will to do so, and at a negligible cost.

If observation of natural behaviour and emotion is not currently part of your product development process, the question that should be asked is why?

Sure, it takes bravery, especially in large organisations, to challenge the status quo.

It takes courage to introduce change (“no one likes change!”).

To show some folks the Emperor’s Clothes.

To demonstrate the value that can be achieved without huge investments.

To bring insights that will literally speak for themselves and be hard to ignore.