Principles of Innovation: Access the Voice of the Consumer Early & Often

Have you ever been in a room and felt a buzz in the air? Like everyone there is on their game and excited to do something big? For me, that’s how I know I’m with a passionate crowd of people.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Front End of Innovation in Boston and that’s the exact experience that I had. We all know how exhausting conferences can be. Often, you’ll get back to your hotel room at the end of the day and just crash. After a long day at FEI, I found my mind racing, looking forward to what the next day would bring. Why? Because I was with a group of people who cared deeply about areas that I’m passionate about. Over and over, I heard words like “agile,” “innovate,” and “lean” floating around the room. This was music to my ears!

At Front End of Innovation, I spoke about the importance of making the consumer part of the innovation team. People familiar with the world of Innovation know that one of the guiding principles of innovation is to include consumer feedback early and often throughout the product development cycle. This concept is at the core of many innovative frameworks, including Lean, Agile, Design Thinking, and Jobs to be Done, among countless others.

The idea behind speaking to consumers early and often is rooted in the notion that it will allow you to “fail fast.” When you fail fast, you minimize risk for failing later in the process, when failures have significantly greater financial and time implications. By connecting with a consumer early in the lifecycle of your product, you are able to validate or invalidate your idea, before investing more into it. Then, throughout the process, you continue to check in with the consumer in order to ensure continued alignment and, therefore, ultimate success.

Sounds good, right? But many companies do not actually put this into practice. Historically, one of the main reasons for this was because there were too many barriers between the brand and their consumers: be they time, cost, or geographically prohibitive.

As it has in almost every other part of our lives, technology has begun to break down these barriers. When manual processes become automated and geographic barriers evaporate due to the interconnected, real-time nature of the internet, we no longer have to rely on traditional, cost and time intensive processes. That leaves more time for brands to be focusing on what matters to them: gaining consumer feedback on their products and campaigns. Since the process is easier and less costly, they are enabled to conduct these check-ins as often throughout the process as necessary.

We have heard firsthand from our clients that when their teams have direct conversations with consumers, they walk away from the experience with many of their preconceptions shattered, big unknowns clarified, and with a feeling of excitement and passion, similar to that heart-racing adrenaline that I experienced at Front End of Innovation.

By having regular, often informal, conversations with consumers, you enable your team to become truly innovative in their approach. It’s through this process that you develop understanding and empathy for the consumer, which becomes apparent when you’ve created a more consumer-centric output.

This approach is not limited to any one particular type of team. Building an understanding of the consumer and gathering their feedback is valuable to everyone in the organization: from Innovation, to Marketing, to Insights, and many other teams.

At Discuss.io, we enable brands to engage early and often by finding consumers around the world and connecting them with you over our live video conversation platform. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to start a conversation with us.

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