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The Innovator's Toolkit: 50+ Techniques for Predictable and Sustainable Organic Growth, 2nd Edition by Neil DeCarlo, Philip Samuel, David Silverstein

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Technique 5

Ethnography

Observe your customers to uncover unarticulated needs.

 

Ethnography is a science that describes human social phenomena based on fieldwork and observation. Applied to the goal of innovation in business, ethnography is the practice of observing how customers try to get their jobs done by using your offerings, your competitors' offerings, or neither.

For example, before inventing Quicken software, Intuit observed people struggling to do the job of organizing and managing their personal finances. Even though professional-caliber accounting software was available at the time, many individuals were using computer spreadsheets or pencil and paper to accomplish this job. None of these approaches met the expectations of home users as well as Quicken does today.

By applying ethnography early in the innovation process, you may discover jobs and/or outcomes that customers have not articulated, especially in cases where existing solutions fail or fall short. For the best results, however, you will need to hire a trained ethnographer due to the discipline associated with collecting qualitative data in the field and accurately analyzing the findings.

Have you ever tried to complete a chore (like fixing a sink) that requires a flashlight? If you need both hands to complete the job, you end up holding the flashlight in your mouth or putting it down. Observing people in this predicament led Black & Decker to invent the snake light—a light that can hold itself.

Steps

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