Innovators are under pressure to invent the next big idea and move it to market fast. A recent report written by Andy Cramphorn, director of Research International, noted the relationship between observations, insights and ideas and successful product development. "Insight," as Cramphorn explained, has become a buzzword this is regularly misused—it is not another name for a fact. And according to Cramphorn, understanding the dynamic between an insight and an observation is crucial to generating insights that are inspiring and valuable.
Directly observing the consumer is a popular method among researchers to gather data, claimed the report; however, processing those observations into useful insight can prove challenging: training, structured insight generation sessions, segmentation studies, desk research and cataloguing of findings all reportedly are important parts to play in determining whether observations could translate into usable insights.
Technological advances often are the root of innovation but innovation must also mesh with consumer needs and behaviors. Cramphorn explained that many times the product that sells the most is not necessarily the product with the best specifications but is sometimes the product that tells a better story—one that resonates with consumers more deeply. According to the report, innovation that does not put consumers at its heart is likely to produce ideas that do not properly address people's behavior and needs.
In developing observations into insight and insight into products, the report noted it is easier to involve consumers when creating products for fast-moving categories like cosmetics, food and beverages (categories that most people understand). The more technically complex a category is, the harder it may be to integrate consumers into the process in a meaningful way.
Once a good idea is fleshed out, the next step is establishing details such as cost or where it will fit in with the rest of the company’s or brand’s offerings. Cramphorn cited the example of the top-down bottle in foodstuffs and cosmetics. The idea reportedly sprang from the observation that many consumers kept existing bottles upside-down. This observation led to the insight of re-arranging the bottle, but the companies still had to work out the details of what sizes of bottles to offer, how to price them, what to do about existing lines in older forms, etc. That initial observation, however, led to an insight that is proving successful in finished products today.