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The easiest and most engaged way to get new insights

I’m a baller, and I can tell which sneaker is good for playing in and why. One of the worst things about modern basketball sneakers is that they still generate a lot of moisture on your feet that makes for an uncomfortable way to play. You really have to get used to playing with moisture on your feet. This problem hasn’t been fixed until now.

The video above is an overview of the new Nike Hyperfuse, which uses mesh technology (the one used on running shoes) to fix the moisture problem. What I want to draw attention to is that the Innovation Kitchen team from Nike got the insight for using mesh technology to reduce moisture after traveling to parts of China and ‘observing’ that some people where playing hoops in running shoes or sandals.

The Hyperfuse is a big hit with NBA players right now (Most of Team USA wore them during the recent World Championships) because it has everything all the other shoes had before it plus the mesh technology that helps the feet breathe.

Observe. Observe. Observe.

I’ve argued before that there are plenty of ways to get insights, but the easiest and most engaged way to get insights is by observing how people use your product or interact with your service.

You would think that an athletic footwear maker like Nike would’ve thought about using running shoe mesh technology on basketball shoes before. They had to travel to the other side of the world to see people playing basketball in sandals and running shoes, not basketball shoes, to get this insight. This why direct observation is so important and focus groups so limited, it’s better to observe people’s behavior because if you ask them outright what they want the don’t really know.

Another thing to remember is that people tend to say ‘that’s the way it is’ and accept products as they are and get used to them. Do you actually think that if they’re used to things being the way they are that they’re actually going to tell you what they want? I know as a basketball player you do all sorts of things to remove the moisture such as changing your socks often so your feet are as dry as possible, yet since we’ve found an alternative and temporary way to dealing with it we don’t stop and ask why?

Somebody else, an outsider, has to notice it; define the problem and find a solution.

Direct observation is one of the most cost effective ways to get new insights, ignore it at your peril.

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