One of the great pleasures in the life of a researcher is having the opportunity to be involved in the creation and development of new products and services – from those first sparks of ideas, when those first little seeds are germinated right through to the detail of packaging, pricing or communications. What could be more exciting? Yet all too often research is still labelled as dull, boring and uninspiring to take part in, reduced in the minds of the consumer to dull surveys and focus groups with stale sandwiches.
The industry is making great strides to change this with gamification, co-creation and online communities the buzz of the moment. I’m all for this, and at the simplest level, I’d like to bring the fun back in! Surely respondents who are enjoying themselves, alert and engaged are more likely to come up with an insightful gem than the consumer shuffling his chair back into the corner, speaking up only when we subtly (or not so subtly) call upon them specifically? So here are my top tips for keeping the fun and upping the creativity:
- Get rid of the table and get moving – 2 hours or more of inertia will send anyone to sleep. If you are going to write or stick stuff on flipcharts, don’t do it yourself! Get those participants up on their feet, moving round the room debating, sticking, writing and active. Different ideas to test? Set up a ‘station’ for each around the room and get small groups to circulate, building up reactions progressively, and responding to the ideas already shared. Get people moving at the start to break the ice and then again later on to avoid the dreaded mid-group slump.
- Start a debate – Polarise your participants and set them loose on each other. Why is A such an awesome idea or why should concept B be thrown out? The more you can pitch people against each other (without obviously it coming to physical blows), the more impassioned people become about defending their ideas and hence revealing what really lies underneath.Alternatively, how about a team board game to get people to justify their priorities, their trade-offs and uncover what really matters to them?
- Get arty – yes, we’ve all made more collages than we can count. And they are great – I have nothing against some pritt stick based fun. But let’s push beyond the images ripped from magazines and introduce texture or go 3D. Let’s allow people to draw, build story boards and add soundtracks. Ipod in your pocket? Soundtrack right there!
- Get dramatic – How about getting the dressing up box out? Ok, this might not be for everyone, but rather than talking the projective talk, live it. Enact it. It’s amazing how just putting a hat on can change your view of the world. Or perhaps a bit of role play is what you need.
- Channel that competitive streak – Do you have a team of clients with a string of the best ideas ever? Put them to the test! Take your inspiration from Dragon’s Den (with your consumers as the Dragons) or Strictly (who doesn’t like to vote?), or maybe look to the world of romance for a hot speed-dating event between clients and consumers.
Clearly it’s a case of picking the right technique for the right group – but let’s start to go beyond the brainstorm and the break-out group. Inspiration is all around you so draw on the ideas you see on TV, from your kids, from the worlds of science, psychology or the arts … and enjoy it!