Archive for the 'Consumer centred' Category

My Citizen M experience – why innovation can drive you mad

September 19th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Opinions,Product Reviews


While visiting Philips Applied Technologies last week, I had the opportunity to try out the Citizen M hotel described in a previous post. As a reminder, Citizen M sets out to create a quirky, low cost, five star hotel experience with the help of some cool technologies from Philips.

To be honest though , my own experience was a bit mixed, so here goes with the good and the bad:

Good stuff:

1. On-line booking was relatively easy once I’d got the hang of the website and you could do some cool things like individualise the look and feel of the room. I chose “party”, “cyan” and medium temperature.

2. Checking in and out was easy and I was assigned a card to use for any purchases during your stay.

3. The room itself was reasonably comfortable if not massive. OK for a one night stay. The bed was really comfy.

4. The room controller has a lot of functionality, controlling among other things lighting, alarm, TV, blinds, and music. You could set it up to get some quite cool effects. Incidentally there was a 500 euro fine if you absconded with the controller.

5. The bar was good and the whole place seemed to be pretty busy.

6. The food quality was good

7. It was quite engagingly quirky, although I’m not sure about Marvin the hotel mascot, who appears in each room

Bad stuff:

1. The toilet was curiously exposed, although you could pull the doors around it closed. It just felt a bit wierd, that’s all.

2. The sink was small and awkward to use

3. Oh dear, the shower! In order to get the water flowing, you had to close the doors but when you got inside, you had to endure 10 seconds of cold water hell until the shower got up to temperature. The shower also had a rather serious leak.

4. Although the food was of good quality, the choice was limited and to get a hot meal you had to use a microwave cooker.

5. Am I being stingy but 116 Euro for one night doesn’t seem like “low cost” to me?

Overall, I’m not sure I’ll go back for more. Certainly not until they fix the shower – it really was a maddening experience and you can almost hear the conversation about not wanting to spoil the room design with a different, more useable shower arrangement. Innovator’s Sweet Spot Verdict: Near Miss.

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Getting to Gemba – a day in the Cardiac Cath Lab


On Friday last week, I spent the day¬†at one of¬†the Cardiac Catheterisation Labs at St. Thomas’ hospital, London. Not as a patient, you understand, but as an observer. You might ask¬†why a moderately squeamish person like myself¬†would do this willingly? Well, my reason was a principled one. I firmly believe that it is impossible to innovate effectively without a¬†clear understanding of the context and usage of your final innovation. Ideally, I like to “go to gemba”,¬†otherwise known as¬†the place where the problem exists, so I can¬†dig for tacit knowledge and observe unconscious behaviours. In¬†this case, however, I’d rather got the cart before the horse because, due to the wonder of Open Innovation and Ideagoras, I answered an RFP (Request For Proposal) on Nine Sigma about improvements to catheter systems, used, for example, in cardiac pocedures, without ever seeing how such an item might be used. At the time it was a bit difficult to see the system in action because a) my foot was in plaster and b) I didn’t know any cardiologists. So, I went ahead and broke my rule and answered the RFP with what I hoped was a pretty creative and novel solution. The Nine Sigma clients at the other end thought so too for a while until they got frightened off by the potential development time. Meanwhile I found a willing cardiologist and he invited me into his cath lab for a day. It was quite an experience – I didn’t pass out and I learnt a lot! Here are a few observations:

There are a lot of people in the lab during a procedure. I’d imaginged just a cardiologist and maybe a radiologist before I went but actually there were two cardiologists present during all the procedures I witnessed (admittedly more complex than average), one radiologist, one catheter nurse, one nurse to look after the patient who is conscious throughout, one technician to monitor the vital signs and at least one further technician behind the scenes to record key image video sequences

Everyone has to wear heavy lead oversuits to protect them the from x-ray radiation from the imaging system. My feet really ached at the end of the day – so much for a sedentary lifestyle!

The x-ray dose and contrast fluid (used to show the artery size on the x-ray image) dose are strictly limited due to the exposure risk to the patient and capacity of the patient’s kidneys to process the contrast fluid from the blood stream.

You can do an awful¬†lot “percutaneously” – see, I’ve got the jargon going already¬†– it means through the skin, under local anaestetic. You can even fit a replacement atrial heart valve using a catheter!

It can be really tricky to find and unblock arteries sometimes, especially if the blockage is close to the intersection with a larger vessel. This can be a very frusutrating and fiddly procedure requiring super-human levels of patience. This illustrated how much the cardiologists rely on “feel” when using the catheter system.

There are already some very impressive technologies available to reduce the friction in catheter systems. One such solution is known as “crosswire”, a 0.014″ diameter hydrophillic coated guide wire often used to break through blockages (as part of a procedure known as Angioplasty). Aparently “a lot of people don’t use crosswire because although its easy to position, it doesn’t stay put”. This is because it can be pushed out by the patient’s blood pressure.

There is a tremendous array of different catheter systems in the lab store, with different end forms, from many different manufacturers. Each cardiologist has his or her personal favourites.

Anyway, I didn’t disgrace myself and I’ve been invited back for another day or so. What did I learn that I didn’t know before? The key things I learnt were:

  • the guide wire isn’t just a means of steering the catheter into place as I thought. It is a functional tool in it’s own right
  • Feel is really critical to the cardiologist
  • There is a huge benefit in speeding up procedures in terms of patient wellbeing and lab efficiency
  • Current catheter systems lack¬†the level of detection capability and controllability needed for some more complex PCIs (Percutaneous Cardiac Interventions)

The whole experience reminded me that in terms of innovation getting to gemba is critical. When was the last time you saw your products in use up-close and personal?


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Turning unconscious behaviour into insight

July 29th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Innovation tools

I’ve just watched a video on ethnosnacker which really brings to life how ethnographic research can uncover and rationalise unconscious and seemingly irrational behaviour. The video shows two shoppers making purchase decisions and they both illustrate a four step process all shoppers go through. the four steps are:

  1. find a reference point
  2. compare other products against the reference point
  3. chose the product
  4. final check

This insightful model has had profound impact on point of sale design across many categories. Very impressive – good one Siamack.

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Innovative organisations can still get it wrong

July 26th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Opinions

I saw this article in Fast Company about P&Gs sustainability approach and I thought it illustrated a common situation – the company organises itself and thinks in one way and the consumer thinks in another way. When this happens who is right? A clue to the answer is in the P&G matra “the consumer is boss”. The article takes P&G to task over their “illegal” chemicals while covering the subject of sustainable products. For P&G, these subject areas are very different, for a typical consumer they are the same. If an “innovative”, consumer focused¬†business like P&G has this problem in aligning it’s corporate mindset to the consumer, what’s happening for everyone else?

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Cultural Creatives – new food consumer trends

July 20th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Innovation direction,Trends

At the recent FDIN conference Anneke Ammerlaan outlined a new consumer – The Cultural Creative. These consumers believe in a blend of the old and the new – old knowledge combined with the latest science and technology. They value authenticity, much as the TNS “new consumer” does, are personally demanding, value honesty and relationships and are concerned about the ecology of the world. The attitudes of these consumers are playing out in 5 trend areas:


The taste of honest products from honest producers. They emphasise origin and traditional production and see beauty in imperfection. They place more emphasis on the preparation method as a means of creating flavour


Cultural Creatives see healthy food as real food and see the two words “Natural” and “Healthy” as very closely linked.


They believe in the personal touch and a re more inclined to prepare at leaste some of their food from scratch. The belive that if they put love into their food, it will taste better and will be healthier.


For Cultural Creatives, convenience is not just about time saving but is about simplicity and ways to deliver care with fresh, natural ingredients.


They look for bands and retailers they can trust and expect them to pay a fair price for a fair product. They are interested in exploring local foods and are keen to support local producers.

A must read book to learn more about Cultural Creatives is In Defence of Food by Michael Pollen.

A lot of what Anneke shared matches my experience of modern food consumers (and not just continental¬†European ones) and gives weight to some key emerging food trends. I’ll try to get some more from Anneke over the next couple of weeks.


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Future Shapers – how to identify and engage influential lead users

At the FDIN conference on Breakthrough Innovation yesterday, I learnt about a more precise and reliable way to identify and engage with¬†influential lead users¬†to generate Breakthrough Innovations that really deliver brand growth. The presentation from TNS, highlighted an approach which can help you to screen for and work with people who are both “connectors” and “new consumers” in your target category (e.g. mobile phones, coffee, soft drinks etc.). A lot of the thinking here comes from¬†books such¬†as The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (incidentally a pretty good read) but also from consideration of the “adoption chasm” wherby many products used by early adopters never make it to the mass¬†market.¬†So, what should you look for to identify “connectors” and “new consumers”?


  • Have a big social network and act as hubs within it
  • Tend to have more friends
  • Talk about new things they’ve found
  • Are curious

New Consumers (for a specific category)

  • value authenticity and originality
  • are well informed and care about the category
  • are individualistic (they want things done “my way”)
  • are time poor
  • are socially responsible

By using a screening questionnaire against these traits it is possible to identify “future shapers” for your category. Typically “future shapers” are much more likely to identify ideas for future brand growth than “early adopters” who are often quite fad driven and can drop new ideas very quickly. Some stats were presented showing that there¬†is a good correlation between high “future shaper” rating for a product idea and actual brand growth, whereas, there¬†is a poor correlation between “early adopter” rating and brand growth. If it is true, they are really onto something, given how unpredictable Breakthrough Innovation often is!

You can use “future Shapers” in two ways, as participants (as opposed to traditional market research respondents) in idea generation and development/screening or you can engage them fully in your innovation task. TNS have found it best in engaging “future shapers” to give them thinking time (1 week) to bat around and develop ideas with their friends and they have found it useful to incentivise the idea generation with prizes.

Someone asked an interesting question about how you could reach and engage these “future shapers” if you were in an SME and TNS suggested that these people would be the people who¬†are most likely to¬†be passionately engaged with your product or service category. It was suggested that if you filter the responses and comments on your website with this in mind, you could identify and engage this sort of customer.

I liked the sharper focus this approach gives in terms of clearly targeting the most useful lead user profile. I’ll be getting some more informaton from TNS over the next few weeks and will post and update when I do.

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Putting People First blog – the rise of user led innovation

July 17th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Innovation direction


I saw an interesting post in the Putting People First blog on user-led innovation. NESTA, the UK’s Science and Innovation body, has published a paper The New Inventors on how users are transforming products and services. According to NESTA:

User-led innovation ‚Äď where users play an active part in the development of new or improved products and services ‚Äď is exploding: proliferating digital technologies mean that we‚Äôre all potential innovators now. New firms based on user-led innovation are being sold for hundreds of millions of dollars only a few years after being founded.

Policymakers have remained somewhat sceptical about the importance of user-led innovation. But if the UK is to harness this new wave of invention and creativity, it needs to develop world-leading policy in support of user-led innovation. This means being more aware of the impact of new legislation on user-led innovation, and establishing a forum to ensure that policymakers hear directly from these new inventors.

Sounds like the UK Government is waking up to the n=1, r=g model that C K Prahalad outlined in his book The New Age of Innovation and I discussed in a recent post.

Incidentally, I was very impressed by the content and scope of the Putting People First blog. More on this in future posts. It’s going on the Blogroll.

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FDIN Seminar – Breakthrough Innovation for the Food and Drink Industry

Just got back from an excellent seminar, run by the Food and Drink Innovation Network¬†(FDIN). Lots of interesting stuff to share in future blogs on ways to improve your targeting of Lead Users and ways to engage them more fully in your innovation process, Open Innovation, Consumer Trends and¬†Emerging Packaging formats. Incidentally, the FDIN is a great source of information about¬†developments in the food industry and I make sure I get regular updates.ÔŅĹ

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Realsight quantitative anthropology provides a new way to get inside your consumer’s behaviour

I came across Realsight in an online forum and thought they had a very interesting and potentially powerful new way to identify innovation ideas in the Front End of Innovation.


Realsight uses a patent-pending technology system and a process they call quantitative anthropology to generate new ways to grow brands from everyday consumer behavior. They provide consumers cameras to film their own behavior while talking to them through online “blog” diaries about product decisions they have made over 3-4 weeks of “behavioral monitoring.” Then Realsight uses analytical tools to discover common product experiences from the thousands of observations of product usage events they capture. So, not only do they have a more complete consumer view than interview-based approaches (which, while¬†useful in themselves, can miss 90%+ of behavior), they quantify opportunities during the Front End of Innovation. Many of the product experiences they uncover are hidden deep within the everyday routines we all have to manage our lives, ones we can’t recall since we’re usually on “auto-pilot” trying to get through each day. These are the experiences that are difficult to uncover with existing Front End approaches, but valuable for companies as they happen almost every day!


Looks to be a good way to help take the “fuzzy” out of the Front End of Innovation.

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The new age of innovation?

I’ve just watched C.K. Prahalad being interviewed on Business Week, talking about his new book “The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks” Prahalad talks about the new needs of innovation being driven by four big changes in the competitive landscape:

1. Global connectivity, where up to 4 billion people will be on-line

2. Digital technologies becoming more available through increased convenience and lower cost

3. Convergence of industry boundaries and technologies, e.g. a cell phone is also a computer a watch and a camera

4. Evolution of social networks

In Prahalad’s view this is driving big shifts in innovation away from industrial revolution thinking, where the key considerations of innovation were the form and product as the source of value, to a situation where one consumer has a very personalised experience provided from a concentration of a¬†very broad range of resources. An example of this is the iPod, where a user builds¬†his or her¬†own very personalised experience while Apple (who don’t¬†manufacture the¬†device or prepare the content) facilitates this by bringing together a wide range of resources from aroung the world. This Prahalad, rather snappily, describes as “N=1, R=G”. He goes on to contrast this new model with the previous view of the world, highlighting three key differences:

1. While the product may be a small part of the experience, the key thing for the consumer is the experience.

2. This experience is co-created by the consumer. For example, Apple can’t tell you which¬†content to play on your iPod. All they can do is provide a platform for you to chose the content. You become an integral part of the value creation.

3. The experience cannot be created without the collaboration of a wide range of different institutions, creating a whole eco-system of contributors to your personalised experience.

These three points contribute to the shift away from the old innovation approach of form being the unit of analysis and product being the source of value, the old innovation approach being epitomised by the Model T Ford. Prahalad argues that this new model doesn’t just apply to systems like iPod and iTunes but will also apply to other, less glamorous¬†products such as tyres or shoes.

Prahalad sees two fundamental challenges for management:

1. To change the way we look at the world, to see our consumers as an active parts of the experience creation process. In this new world, there are two joint problem solvers the company and the consumer. What impact might this have on future business strategy?

2. how to change information management systems to match these shifts. He see this area as a major source of competitive value.

So, to summarise, if you’ve gone with this argument so far, our job as innovators becomes one of¬†building new platforms on which our consumers can create their own experiences. This all seems to align well with the TRIZ evolution of the technological customisation system. The next step after this from a TRIZ viewpoint is that the system itself customises the consumer’s experience with no intervention required from the consumer.¬†ÔŅĹ


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