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Hassle statements reveal innovation opportunities

So, my last post hit a nerve. It seems many of you agree with me that good old fashioned observation is the best innovation technique available to entrepreneurs and innovation practitioners. Ok, cool. But, what exactly are we looking for when observing people?

Again, here are some ideas:

  • Things that prompt shift in behavior.
  • Work-arounds and adaptations.
  • Body language.
  • Thing people care about.
  • Anything that surprises you.
  • Anything that questions your assumptions about how the world works.
  • Anything that you find irrational.

But let us imagine that your observational research also includes some “arm-chair anthropology”, meaning that you are observing human behavior on the web. Lets say that you think the iPad or any other tablet sucks and are therefore motivated to create something better.

One place to look would be online product reviews.

Take Dan Nosowitz, a Popular Science writer who just wrote a personal review about the Google Nexus Tablet. Here’s something that caught my eye:

Here’s a weird one: I love the choice to leave out a rear camera. Rear cameras on tablets are stupid! They never take good pictures and you look like an idiot when you try.

That last part of his statement is key because he is expressing a very specific “hassle” about the product. To me he is saying: “Not only do rear cameras have poor image quality, they also make me feel embarrassed when putting them to use”.

This is an important insight because it is a clear point of differentiation for him about how he evaluates the Google Nexus against existing tablets. A question to ponder is: How many other people feel the same?

To dig deep, the next question one should ask is: Why do you feel like an idiot when you try to use the rear camera?

Keep asking “why?” until you get to the root of the problem. Don’t try to assume and put words in their mouths. Just let them tell you everything.

Maddock Douglas, the Innovation Consultancy, has actually come up with simple way to identify insights. Maddock Douglas calls it an insight statement: I __FACT__ because __WHY___ but ___ HASSLE___.

It is very similar to the statement Dan made about the Google Nexus.

Pay attention to the way people express displeasure

Henceforth, when observing (it is also a form of listening) people, do pay attention to critical statements they make. These statements, like the one above, may reveal innovation opportunities. But, rarely will people put together a perfect insight statement for you, so you will have to probe some more and then connect the dots.

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