Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Innovation's Obstacle: Focus Groups

Reinforcing Constraints On Breakthrough Thinking

We are not fans.

Of focus groups.

As client advocates and owners of their trust, we have yet to recommend the use of focus groups.

The reason is focus groups are a crutch, serving the needs of those seeking security in the familiar.

In contrast, the very basis of our work at WHISPER is in finding the unfamiliar - the category-defying narrative - authentically packaged to advance the disruptive market opportunity for new growth.

Douglas Van Praet agrees:

Focus-group panels...are misguided.

Too often professionals rely on them and other quantitative methodologies based on "false convictions and post-hoc rationalizations."

Marketing research should instead focus on understanding the motivators and decision-triggers of people, rather than of consumers, and "how to improve human lives."

We describe it this way: Within a group setting, focus groups reinforce constraints the human brain places on innovative thinking – the fear of failure, the urge to conform, and the tendency to interpret sensory information in familiar ways.

Reminds us of this quote from Steve Jobs:

"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them... That doesn't mean we don't listen to customers, but it's hard for them to tell you what they want when they've never seen anything remotely like it."

Read more in this column from Fast Company.

[Image: Quotable Cards]

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