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Discover the Pros and Cons of Your Next Great Idea

Back when I was a kid, I fancied myself a game programmer. I was particularly interested on writing up “adventure games”—a sort of written-story-based puzzle that would focus on some simple objective (such as “find the treasure”) wherein the player would read the narrative and type in simple commands such as, “push the button” or “open the door with the key” to proceed.

When I would write these games and play through them myself, I was certain that everything was in order. If I let my father take a look at it—no matter how well or poorly-made it was—he’d issue praise. If I sent it to one of my friends, I would invariably receive the report that they had “seen better.” The real breakthrough in the development of my game-crafting, however, was when I persuaded my little sister to play through the game while I observed. 

There were some simple discoveries. For example, I had not considered the possibility that someone might “press” the button rather than “push” it. But even more importantly, I was able to see where my sister reached dead ends, or perhaps come up with a perfectly good solution that I hadn’t anticipated. If I hadn’t been there to take note, I wouldn’t have discovered as much as I did. She, after all, didn’t know what was “supposed” to happen, and couldn’t know what was a computer bug—or just a case of bad design.

I’ve observed something similar with focus groups. You present some ideas for new products, and the respondents say they love it or hate it. But only after significant prying (or a bit of luck) does one discover that it hinged not on the concept language, but rather on the polarizing expression of a quickly-sketched character in the concept line art. I’ve also seen how responses to an early concept can drive the mood of the group for the rest of the session. The “quick read” a focus group might give is often the subject of intense debate immediately afterward—discussing how those responses should really be interpreted.

As with the game-development study of my youth, I’ve seen real value for clients who are able to observe consumers capable of providing good solutions. At Ideas To Go this often involves a panel composed of articulate participants trained in the ideation process, called Creative Consumers® associates, who can give meaningful insights and feedback beyond just:

  • “I like it.”
  • “I hate it.”
  • “Oh yes, the FIRST thing I look for when buying product X is whether or not the company donates to charity, promotes world peace, and saves the whales.” 

Because, after all, not everyone has the benefit of a guileless little sister handy to help you discover all the pros and cons of your next great idea.

©2013 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jordan Peacock

Jordan Peacock is a Word Processing Specialist at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.