Market Research: The First Step to Generate New Product Ideas
When executing market research for innovation, it's important to keep the end in mind. Or at least to keep the next step in the process in mind. This next step? It's usually an ideation session. For the practical market researcher, what does this mean? Before exploring that, let's review a bit about ideation itself.
We think of "ideation" or "idea generation" as the fun part of product innovation. After all, it's during ideation that one might see Nerf guns or Legos. We sit at square tables with pipe cleaners, paper, scissors, and crayons. As our colleagues take a peek, they may be skeptical that any actual work is going on. Certainly, more than one company leader has been skeptical about these activities.
You might recall the IBM commercial from the 2000s about ideation. A company leader walks into a room. Only to find a herd of employees on yoga mats, eyes closed.
Perplexed and bemused, the leader asks, “What are you guys doing?" A confident, brave soul answers, “We’re ideating.” The leader replies, “I-dee-what?” The commercial ends with the tagline in bold letters, “STOP TALKING. START DOING.”
IBM designed this commercial to resonate with those who believe ideation to be a feel-good, new age, trendy waste of time. These employees need to stop this ideation business and start working! Unfortunately, this view confuses the matter around a very serious business process, the process of generating ideas.
For a start, it’s important for product managers and developers to understand ideation. To understand how to execute it well. And perhaps most of all, to understand the role of market research in ideation.
What is that role?
For the purposes of innovation, market research should provide targeted customer needs to solve. Moreover, the beginning of an ideation session should begin with an exploration of the market research. This hints at something that most market researchers may not have considered. It's this: their charge is more than just to uncover and prioritize customer needs. Additionally, it’s also to communicate those needs back to the company. And communicate them in a way that can be understood, absorbed, and acted upon.
Practically speaking, what does this mean? It means that the market researcher should be already working on this “communication” task throughout their work. First, during qualitative research, they should capture customer verbatims as much as possible. There's nothing like the customer's own words. Next, if appropriate, take pictures or videos of customers. Typically, these pictures/videos would be of the customers interacting with a product or, trying to accomplish a certain job-to-be-done. Later, when the quantitative research has concluded, match up this media with the top customer needs.
Fast forward to the beginning of the ideation session. Your facilitator will begin by helping participants to understand the customer’s problem to be addressed. As you present the top customer needs to be addressed, you’ll use customer verbatims, images, and video to tell the story. This will go a long way to inspiring the ideation participants. Resulting in a productive, fun, session… but more importantly, resulting in innovative new product ideas!
He has a diverse professional background within manufacturing engineering, product management, voice-of-the-customer training and SaaS development. Notable career stops include product manager for John Deere’s compact tractors, innovation leader for Actuant corporation, and Director of the Strategyn Institute. At Strategyn, he worked alongside the world's best jobs-to-be-done practitioners. Strategyn, founded by pioneer Tony Ulwick, is ground zero for Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI).
Today, as Senior Vice President for The AIM Institute, Burleson leads product development for Blueprinter® software, teaches workshops on innovation using the New Product Blueprinting process, and advises corporate leaders and practitioners on growth via JTBD principles.
He has a MS in Management and a BS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University.