Idea generation might begin its life on the back of a napkin or from a spark of insight generated from new data analytics. But these ideas aren’t worth anything until, validated, tested and revised. Let’s assume an idea has legs and you have spoken with people in your target market, and you are confident the concept reduces a customer’s pain point or solves a common problem. Getting your idea market ready and turning it into something which generates demand, or turns a profit, is where the challenge lies. Most fail to get the idea close to being ready before spending the money to create a prototype to test on the open market.

Idea generation with online focus groups
Traditional approaches to product development would have you:

  • build a prototype,
  • test it with your target market,
  • refine its attributes and features based on feedback.

There are two fundamental flaws with this approach:

  1. The idea may be the best thing since the Rubik’s cube but because it hasn’t been packaged or featured correctly,  it fails to appeal to the intended market, OR maybe you are  pitching it at the wrong segment of the market.
  2. Rushing to market testing you are giving at least one potential competitor a heads-up, and they may just be able to apply a superior co-creation processes and their proprietary knowledge to fix what you did not get right in the first place.

Worst case scenario, a competitor takes your idea to market while you are left holding the consolation prize, which means working out how to explain the money lost. The investment in time and money you need to spend in getting the idea right out ways the opportunities lost!

Idea generation is not just an internal function, and you shouldn’t avoid talking to the intended audience until you have something tangible and defined. Idea generation begins with the business or organisation and requires  early collaboration with opinion leaders from your target market. Idea generation as a co-creation exercise involves talking with real people to expand and define the attributes and characteristics of the product or service. However, audience collaboration doesn’t mean sending out an online survey to see if people like the idea. You can certainly test the needs of the target market withan online survey, but you can’t get any usable data from a blanket survey full of ‘what-ifs’. You need to first evolve the idea, so you are confident the idea has been presented the best way possible and is at least 80% market test ready. How do you know if you are asking the right questions when you don’t even know what the end solution looks like?

Today, generating new ideas is likely to have its seeds in data analytics, where the data identifies a new segment or markets underserved by the current range of products and services. You may have identified a pain point and a way to remove the underlying issue. Ideas come from somewhere, so how do we practically take an idea and work with it to create something successful?

The simple answer is that we take the idea and workshop it with a sample of the target audience. But instead of using a one-way feedback mechanism such as an online survey, or a traditional two-way face to face focus group, we will bring a group of opinion leaders together in an overtime online focus group, facilitated by overtime discussion technology.

What is an overtime online focus group?

An overtime online focus group is a moderated qualitative online market research method where you bring people together in a secure online environment to answer a series of discussion topics. It works like a social network group, or online forum, except organised by discussion topic rather than “posts”. The participants (customer, employee, citizen or individuals) are sent an exclusive invitation to a secure online environment where they first logon, here they  are greeted by a welcome message and set of group instructions. Participants then progress on to answer and discuss topics questions which focus on building a picture which will help to define further and perhaps validate the idea. All discussion topics are completed in the order presented either during one or multiple online sessions. An overtime focus group can span days, with participants being able to log in and take part at a time convenient to them.

Idea or co-creation activities are detailed in discussion topics, where multiple items added together make up the discussion plan. The overtime online focus group discussion plan includes images and videos for comment and group discussion. Participants can also upload media and complete short surveys, polls and other activities. The overtime focus group environment can be a launch pad for other activities and links for people to read, contribute or share as part of the ideation and co-creation process.

Benefits of overtime online focus groups for idea generation:

  1. Reduces the time it takes to engage with people and generate ideas
  2. Enables you to reach geographically dispersed participants.
  3. Utilise the opinions and ideas of people anywhere, anytime and when they are able.
  4. Faster data collection and insights delivery than traditional methods.
  5. Allows for participant anonymity and reduces group think and one person dominating or leading the discussions.
  6. Mix private one on one discussions topics with open group questions.
  7. Increase the size of the focus groups from 12 to 30 and easily keep track of everyone’s activity.
  8. Transcripts are available as insights from the group unfold, and you don’t wait weeks for a length report.
  9. Include online surveys for more depth of data and to validate earlier discussions.
  10. Talk with hard to reach people more often to ask questions, discuss and inform.

To find out more about online idea generation discussion software or about our full service overtime focus group options just contact us for a chat.

This article first appeared @ discussionboards.com.au/blog

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