In today’s fast moving markets, there are very few businesses (including market research businesses) that survive and flourish without continuous investment in product or service innovation.
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Innovation done well is every marketer’s dream. Achieving innovative disruption with first mover advantage and fantastic profits could well be a pipe dream. The big deal is that whatever innovation pathway you choose, it involves risk, resources and the right people working on the problem.
There are four key ways to think about innovation:
Innovation is a huge technological advantage that can propel an existing product or service ahead of competitors. We see this in pharma or big R&D labs striving for the next patentable formula, device or technology. Think major cancer treatments, or ways to purify water in developing countries.
That transform markets and even society. These innovations have a radical impact on how humans act, think and feel in some way – Uber is a game changer for instance, as is Airbnb, where you can ‘live like a local’.
Often the realm of startups who might result in poor product or service performance, at least in short term, but bring to market a very different value proposition – think what iTunes did for purchasing music.
Involve small low risk changes to existing products and services. These are enhancements that keep a business competitive, such as new product features, flavours, formats and service improvements.
The challenge that business face is how to systematically determine how to go about innovation and what to plan for. We often hear the ‘we tried that before’ commentary, or that the ‘business won’t do that’ thinking, because of the degree of risk required or the fact that this idea failed in the past. At Ruby we believe in incremental learning and that consumers can’t tell us everything, in fact mainstream consumers are not great when it comes to innovation at all.
So how do we do this at Ruby?
First we need to understand what kinds of innovation we are going after. Breakthrough innovation is tough at a consumer research level and needs higher resources, however incremental innovation and game changer innovation is possible. We might even foreshadow some disruption.
Whatever type of innovation we want to go after, we need to start with the consumer or a problem to solve for.
- What needs or tensions do we need to solve for?
- What are the pain points along the service journey?
So what are you solving for?
Ruby can help with identifying consumer pain points and problem insights to create insight platforms from which to ideate. We can create ideation sessions and tools, we can take you on consumer safaris to immerse in the world and context of the consumer and we can provide creativity with purpose.
We have several ways to run innovations sessions:
- Straight ideation sessions with our proprietary tools and processes.
- Semiotics to understand category rules and conventions and how to play in new markets of interest.
- Ruby Espresso Future World sessions to create the future with clients, stakeholders and consumers.
- Innovation recycle sessions working through past innovations to understand what worked, what didn’t, context then and now to ‘rebirth’ ideas.
- And custom built innovation development communities.
Whichever route we choose, we must remember that some categories are inherently challenging because they are so dynamic in terms of the degree of change and technological impact on consumers. We will need to customise approaches and scope what is possible before jumping in.
The most important angle from a research perspective is who to talk to.
We need to take the consumer type into consideration, and mainstream consumers are notoriously poor for innovation research. We need to talk to extreme consumers, passionates, leading consumers versus late adopters. Whilst this might seem counter intuitive, it is the people on the edge who will help us shape the future, whereas the mainstream are less likely to know what they are going to need/use or want in the future, unless a lead consumer has shown them why.