Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How we've applied N-of-8 to uncover new product concepts

Using N-of-8 for new brand concepts can generate high potential new product and service ideas.

The “open innovation” approach has long been taken by successful innovators, but it remains difficult – because the “not invented here” syndrome is seductive and stubborn to overcome.

Going outside for ideas is much more complex than internally, because so many external groups of stakeholders may offer insights of value.  Here are several ways we have applied the N-of-8 tool to uncover new product concepts:
  • 8 Individual Interviews – you can begin quickly and easily this by reaching out and speaking with people.  Many customers, partners and influencers will willingly share their thoughts if you only ask them. While a discussion guide can be helpful, these interviews should be fairly unstructured to allow for rich conversations and idea generation.
  • 8 Participants in a Group – assembling eight people in a session with a skilled moderator that leads the discussion and helps participants walk through problems and explore possible solutions.
  • 8 Views of Reverse Engineering – this well-known tactic involves buying and analyzing competitive products to understand the thinking and engineering behind them. In the application of N-of-8 on this analysis, generate 8 unique angles on product or service ideas.
  • 8 Intermediaries – create a group from entities such as brokers, agents, venture capitalists, and academic researchers.  Then, provide the client with raw or market-ready ideas. (You could even involve the intermediaries in the development later.)
  • 8 Licensing Pitches – like intermediaries, other companies can be a source of ideas and frequently present at public conferences.  By listening to presentation by companies that are open to licensing their ideas, you can potentially gain ideas to accelerate innovation..
  • 8 Partners in Co-creation – at the end of the external innovation spectrum is joint development of product ideas.  In this methodology, you connect with eight customers, partners, complementors, or even competitors to share in idea generation and product development.
  • 8 Ethnographic Observations – this involves closely observing the user experience – how users go about their lives, the problems they encounter, and how they interact with your product or service.  Many needs are unknown to the customer, and can only be discovered through in-depth observation. Because this shadowing is done in a native environment, your team can identify new areas of opportunities.
These tactics and methodologies are a menu of choices, not a rigid list.  They represent not only our experience, but also the thinking of innovation thought-leaders.  You can design and continually refine your external idea generation programs using this N-of-8 framework and these tactics as a guide.

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