31 May, 2010

Brainmates bigger horse

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent Brainmates seminar – “How to Capture the Right Customer Insights”. This was a panel discussion with multiple questions from the floor. The panel consisted of Steven Noble – Forrester Research, Natalie Rowland – Redrollers Research (Qual) and Adrian Ewart –Veda Advantage Solutions Group (Quant). So, all bases covered.

There were a couple of things that stuck in my mind, which I’d like to go over.

Firstly, there was concern expressed that consumer research may not be helpful if the product/service is new and innovative. The rationale is: how can you research a need that doesn’t (yet) exist?

The example given on the evening, is this. Had Henry Ford asked people what they wanted, they would have said “a bigger horse”. I reckon Henry knew what people wanted.

Rather than genetically engineering a larger horse, he engineered a substitute for a bigger horse. The Model T had a 20 horsepower engine, and the ability to carry 4 people in (relative) comfort. Now that’s (figuratively) a bigger horse – albeit, mechanical.

The point being – you need more than just the research “I want a bigger horse” but the ability to link customer wants to new products and services that take a leap, that provide solutions that are “figurative rather then literal”. Otherwise we’ll only get incremental innovation.

With that, I’ll just say “iPad” – literally an underperforming notebook and oversized iPhone that can’t make calls. Figuratively – the 3rd category.

Secondly, there was a question about doing qualitative analyses on large amounts of unstructured data. Panel members suggested that you ought not do qual on big groups.

There has been a growth in textural and sentiment analysis of late, a major driver being analysis of social media discussions / blogs / comments, which are unstructured, and in their 10’s of thousands.

There are a number of products using automated sentiment analysis and natural language processing – and they’re getting better. Take a look at this recent Mashable article .

And Bruce Temkin (ex Forrester) thinks it’s a Customer Experience Mega Trend. His blog – Experience Matters, is also an excellent resource for Voice of Customer (VoC).

What do you think? Are there any other points, clarifications, or thoughts that stuck in your mind? Perhaps we can keep the conversation rolling?

And thanks once again to Brainmates + Steven Noble, Natalie Rowland, and Adrian Ewart for an “insightful” evening. Brainmates, when is the next one?


bookwyrme said...

Hi Mark,

I am really glad that you enjoyed the Product Talk. It was a great turn out particularly given the rain outside.

The Henry Ford quote that you are referring to is one that drives me crazy!! The problem with this quote is that it distains the insight that a request for a faster horse could provide. If the next question to ask our horse travelling market was “Why do you want a faster horse?” the research can get one step closer to identifying that market’s need. In fact I wonder if the first cars were in fact faster than the first cars from Mr Ford.

By exploring the other related problems associated with travel by horse, other market needs may have been uncovered. Eg minimise the discomfort from the saddle, minimise the effects of weather, minimise the staff required to maintain the horses when not in use, etc.

People will often describe their own vision of what a solution should be to solve the problem that they have. When designing and innovating products we need to listen very carefully to find out the problems that people are trying to address and then find game changing ways of solving them for profit.

The next Product Talk #7 is on 11 August 2010. The topic is still to be decided.

marc said...

Thanks Bookwyrme
Was it a bigger, or a faster horse? If it's faster, then the Model T was faster than a horse. It had a top speed of 45mph and could cruise at 35mph.
A horse is capable of those speeds, but not for very long. A "Quarter Horse" can go fast, but only for a quarter of a mile.
All the other points you raise would also have been known to Henry. I don't think he needed a pie chart, or a pivot table.

I guess my point is that it's not just the data that's important. It's what you do with it. And to me, the "innovator's dilemma" (the dangers in listening to your customer) exposed in 'faster horses' is also answered. He provided faster + bigger horses. That were more comfy, sheltered and required less maintenance.

He was, most definitely, listening to (prospective) customers.

Mark T. Trends said...

I don't agree with you at all. Henry Ford is notorious for ignoring his customers.
He said "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black"

Charan said...

Hi Marc,

I believe most new products or innovations focus to satisfy the unidentified or un-catered needs of the customers. Considering Ford, as you rightly said Ford understood people's need towards faster+bigger horses which made him come up with a new product.

Today's wants are becoming tomorrow's needs, a trend change in the people's attitude with the latest technological innovations. I think a research on 'need analysis' will definitely help out few other questions such as who are target customers, what is the target market, how we are going to reach them. If we are coming up with a new product, we will definitely match the new product/service's features with the needs of customers, and for that a research will be necessary to understand whats there in the consumer's mind. What do you say?

Marc Jarman said...

Hi Mark
Thanks for the comment.
I'm still not sure that he was ignoring his customers. I'm thinking that not many wanted other colours.
I believe when he started in 1908 he offered a number of colours, and he only moved to black when the full production line was introduced in 1913. So he would have already had sales information on the popularity of black.
What he was notorious for is his arrogance - which is perhaps the more likely origin of the quote.

Marc Jarman said...

And Hello Charan!
Yes indeed, you are right, but the problem is, if it's a new product, a radical new product, then your customers will not express a need or a want, because they don't have any.

Post-it notes for example. There was no need or want expressed, and it was only by using them that the need and want was exposed.