International studies shows that the global “hit rate” of innovations efforts is around 4 percent (Doblin Group analysis, the CHAOS report, et al).
Many companies and other forms of organizations are putting in large amounts of money in developing new products or service which are not working optimal or are failing on the market, the main reasons are:
The global “hit rate” of innovations efforts is around 4 percent
Is it possible to increase the “hit rate” on the market? We claim that it is indeed possible as some companies have raised their “hit rate” on the market between 34 and 70 percent (Doblin Group analysis).
Some companies have raised their “hit rate” on the market between 34 and 70 percent
Some of these cases are referred to later in this article. Using Design Anthropology in combination with User Driven Innovation and Design these companies are able to get a deeper insight about potential users or lead users behavior, their expressed and hidden needs, their feelings, triggers for motivation, experiences and expectations in relation to a product or service.
Anthropology is the science of Man, attempting to understand and explain human behavior and social organization. The methods developed and used in anthropology are ethnographic field methods, which are qualitative methods such as unstructured deep interviews, participatory observation and other participatory methods.
Participatory Observation is the superior method in finding hidden needs
Participatory Observation is the superior method in finding hidden needs, needs that we can’t formulate but are unveiling in our behavior or expressed through deep metaphors. Anthropologist lives, without to be a part, together with and in the real context of the potential users.
The branch of anthropology named Design Anthropology was developed in Japan and in the US by the end of the 1960s. The Rank Xerox in the US was one of the first companies using Design Anthropologists. The big green button on their copying machines is one result of early Design Anthropology. Since then the discipline has developed and today Design Anthropologists are working directly in innovation processes.In Scandinavia, Denmark is the leading country developing Design Anthropology in combination with User Driven Innovation and Design. Recently a new research centre for Participatory Innovation named SPIRE was founded at the Mads Clausen Institute.
Cooper and Edgett at Harvard Business School show in their “Ideation Study”, which is an analysis of 18 methods as platform for ideation, that Ethnography and customer visits are the most effective methods. See figure 1.
Ethnography and customer visits are the most effective methods
But the study also shows that Ethnography is not a too popular methodology, mostly because of ignorance and lack of tradition in involving anthropologists directly in the R&D. Furthermore, it there are opinions that it is time consuming with long periods out in the field and therefore considered ineffective and expensive.
The problem reflected above, is that other disciplines than Design Anthropologists are often using traditional Ethnography in market research and spend far too long periods for observing and interviewing, often biased by quantitative research methods for market surveys. The load of information is too heavy and often presented in a long report which is not easy to interpret and therefore not very useful for design and engineering.
Customer Visit Teams which are considered popular and effective also use ethnographic methods
On the other hand, Customer Visit Teams which are considered popular and effective also use ethnographic methods as participatory observation and unstructured deep interviews.
Design Anthropology has an applied approach, more closely related to Action Research than traditional Ethnography. Working in a very structured way where the focus is to get deep insights about potential users and find both expressed and hidden needs as fast as possible to feed in to the processes of ideation and concept making. No long reports are produced, the data is instead tailor- made and immediately of use to different actors as designer, developers, business/market people, etc.
Schematic, the steps of Design Anthropology in combination with User Driven Innovation and Design, driving by a tight multi-disciplinary team (the Design anthropologist participate in all steps) in interaction with potential users or with lead users, are as shown in figure 2.
The objectives are to create products or services motivating people and giving them positive feelings and experiences. Involving users in a methodological and structured way in R&D facilitates the concept making process and shortens the development project cycle considerable, often with several months and therefore cutting costs radically. Focus is on reducing so many errors and weaknesses as possible already during the conceptualization phase.
Some examples of well known products which originate from using Design Anthropology are:
Lexus, Toyota – Toyota wanted to penetrate the American market with a new car in the same category as BMW and Mercedes.
Toyota offered middle class families anthropologists as au-pair girls
Toyota offered middle class families anthropologists as au-pair girls who lived with the family and observed everything the families did related to cars. The information obtained was the platform for the Lexus concept.
Lexus became very popular and was once the best selling car in its category. In Lean Product Development/Innovation the key is deep knowledge and insights about potential users.
In Lean Product Development/Innovation the key is deep knowledge and insights about potential users
Huggies Pull-Ups diapers – Design Anthropologists visited families with children in diapers. It came out that diapers symbolize parents focus on their children’s future development and success. Parents felt ashamed if their child wore diapers too long, the question “is your child still in diapers?” was not well received. The result is diapers looking more like underpants.
E-trans – a painless injection for local anesthesia through weak electric impulses. Design Anthropologists visited health clinics and observed children’s painful reactions on injections.
Photo-Shop – Adobe developers involved users in the design.
Many companies confronted with strong competition take advantage of Design Anthropology and User Driven Innovation/Design. For example Nokia started up a field team of Design Anthropologists last year, other companies are Motorola, Lego, Electrolux, Coloplast, Boeing and Honda.
This approach also starts to become popular in the area of Service Design where it is, due to competition, more and more important to include the whole chain of the service delivery in the design as:
One area where it needs to be more developed is IT (Information Technology). Still, main problems in systems on the market are user experience, overview, orientation, recognition, own control and feedback.
The CHAOS report shows that many IT projects fail because of lack of deep understanding of the user’s context and expressed and hidden needs.
Many IT consultant companies do not observe the users in their real context and systems developed do not support the user’s needs. In Sweden there are examples in the health sector where doctors and nurses must work overtime due to poor design of IT. Another example can be found in the Swedish Authority of Social Insurance (Försäkringskassan) where a newly introduced IT-system failed.