Friday, December 19, 2008

Observations vs. Findings: The Lesson of the Oviraptor

Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the Oviraptor in 1924. Andrews made the discovery on top of a pile of fossilized eggs. The head of the Oviraptor was 4 inches away from the eggs, hence the latin name for 'egg seizer'.

After more study almost 70 years later, the finding that the Oviraptor was an egg-thieving beast was questioned. Today on NPR there was a story on how dinosaurs like the Oviraptor are very much like Ostriches and Emus. The females would lay the eggs, but soon after have to feed after expending all of that energy. The men would then care for the eggs at this point.

The ferocious Oviraptor got a bad rap for almost a century. The reality was that he was close to the eggs because he was a great daddy. The observation was sound, but the finding wasn't as overt as it seemed. Sometimes you have to filter your observations to get a deeper, more accurate finding. I'm going to think about the Oviraptor the next time I'm out visiting customers.

Here is a link to the NPR audio & article:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Good Experience Live (GEL) Conference 2008 Videos Posted

On the Gel website you can now view some of the videos of the speakers from Gel 2008. Gel is Mark Hurst's multidisciplinary conference on creating good experiences. Gel's broad collection of speakers makes it one that you shouldn't miss. 

I recommend you take the time to watch Alex Lee's presentation. He is the CEO of OXO, creators of wonderful kitchen products. You get insight into the product lifecycle at OXO and how ideas are vetted. 

You can check out the list of speakers and sign up for Gel 2009 Here: 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Empathy is a Complex Ingredient of Innovation

The Wall Street Journal had an article on what innovation means to small business. Dev Patnaik, the founder of Jump Associates is interviewed. In it, he identifies complexities modern businesses face like, "How can my company stand out from the competition?". He goes on to list three ingredients to innovate: Empathy, creativity and execution.

"Empathy is about getting employees out in the real world. If you work for a company that makes kitchen tools, you should go hang out with the chefs that use kitchen tools."

While I agree that these three areas are important to innovation, the example in the quote above seemed to oversimplify what really needs to go on here. Just as companies must evolve to ask more complex questions, they also can't simply visit chefs in their kitchens. There is only so much low-hanging innovation fruit to be picked. Spending time with customers should be a ubiquitous part of the product lifecycle. Seeing it offered here as a "tip" speaks volumes. 

To go through the process of observing and interviewing customers and synthesizing it into new products & features is not a simple act. If you don't have trained people in the right places in your company, you can end up with products that aren't what your customers really wanted. Make sure if you are going into the kitchen to talk to those chefs that your company knows what to do with those observations.