Quick Time Workshop

When cycle time is critical, interactive exchanges between users and NPD teams can significantly shorten the process of identifying "the next big thing"...improve the quality of the core concept...build cross-functional cooperation...and create an all-important proprietary commitment to subsequent product development efforts of the NPD team. It's the equivalent of a home run with the bases loaded.

The tool is typically selected for the wrong reason -- to save time up front. In the preliminary phases of identifying the NPD concept. And it does save time. Only later does it becomes apparent the process forced the NPD Team to work together to blueprint a concept that (1) places customers first and (2) inputs everyone's ideas into an concept that merits "universal buy-in." Between the two latent features of the process, NPD managers eradicate the unanticipated revise-rework-redirection problems that can easily double product development time and cost -- a consideration that makes the 30 day delivery of the concept seem like small potatoes.

The tool is an updated and significantly more sophisticated version of qualitatively-assisted efforts to generate new product concepts that most NPD managers know as "Focus Groups." The improvements add a new dimension to qualitative ideation efforts:

  • Consumer respondents are truly focused on project-relevant issues by real-world assignments (i.e, keep a contact lens care log / diary, conduct a wardrobe inventory of casual wear apparel, videotape a software installation, test-drive a Toyota and a Suburu).
  • Direct eyeball-to-eyeball interface between NPD manager (assisted by Polaris moderator) and paired consumers.
  • Interviews of consumers conducted in "double dyads" -- pairs of interviewers interfacing with pairs of consumers -- to facilitate in-depth exploration and concurrently eliminate group bias and "me-too" response.
  • Post interview debriefing objectives include efforts to construct theoretical models of consumer insights; objective is to encourage a broad spectrum conceptual exploration of opportunity within which specific new product concepts occur.
Because the effort places the idea generation responsibilities primarily on individual members of the NPD Team and equips them with both consumer insights and coaching assistance in synthesizing the information into user-relevant concepts, the tool generates a wide variety of cross-functional perspectives. Which in turn generate a wider -- and deeper -- spectrum of new product concepts from which the team collectively can pick and choose.

The process can be completed in less than 30 days. For managers uninterested in rehashing shopworn ideas and tacking frivolous gimmicks on existing technology platforms it's the fastest way to identify legitimately innovative new product concepts. It's unquestionably the quickest way to develop big ideas that reflect both consumer and corporate-wide perspectives.

The process is conducted in a three-phase effort where members of the NPD team define potential prospects, usage parameters and pre-interview assignments to focus respondents...individually participate in depth interviews with prospective users who have been pre-programmed to focus on NPD team issues...then reconvene in a workshop in which they share insights and synthesize acquired information into consumer-relevant new product concepts.

Members of the NPD Team assume primary responsibility for generating "the next-big-thing" concepts. Polaris contribution to the effort is that of a coach / facilitator and creative resource whose primary responsibility is to introduce and conduct the process, recruit & pre-program consumer respondents, co-host the consumer in-depth interviews, assist individual team members in modeling / mapping insights produced in the interviews in which they participated and moderate the ideation workshop in which models, need matrices and new concepts are shared and improved.

Toyota design engineers ride shotgun for target prospects and informally probe observed behavior; Nike marketing and R&D managers interface with skateboarding mall rats to discuss the-next-big-thing in rad footgear. A list of potential applications for productively mixing consumers and NPD managers would be only slightly shorter than the Yellow Pages. Particularly since the need to meet ever shortening windows of opportunity means every manager needs the NPD concept yesterday. And it's that urgency that adds a new dimension of risk to an already perilous journey.

Because ideas are fuzzy abstractions whose value is difficult to measure, there is an inclination to go with two or three interesting ideas that have been lurking in the back of your mind for some time. It's a seductive -- and dangerous -- temptation. But shun that devil, brothers and sisters. Take the 30 days it takes to generate a full range spectrum of consumer-comes-first NPD options. It's critical. Because surveys show it takes more than a dozen legitimately high potential NPD concepts to produce one successful new product launch for package goods. Seven for producers of business-to-business products / services.

The way to shorten the ideation functions that drive the remainder of the NPD effort is to work together to shorten the conceptualization time -- not short cut the quantity of ideas. Or their quality.

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