Business expansion opportunities are identified when some sort of unmet need is defined in the marketplace. Unmet needs always relate back to the customer in some way. A human being is always the customer, whether they are a buyer or a user. Even if you are focused on process changes, these changes should tie back to customer value for them to be important enough to pursue. Finding unmet needs should be the purpose for conducting qualitative, human-based research.
Qualitative research seeks to frame the context of a person’s world in human terms (i.e. physical, social, cultural, cognitive and emotional drivers) and thereby uncover ways of helping a person by inventing new solutions, or combining existing solutions in new ways. Ultimately, people are simply trying to “get a job done”.
At a seminar I attended by the firm BMGI, they presented the concept of “Jobs To Be Done” which brought the purpose of qualitative research to a finer point for me. When conducting user research, discovering unmet needs is made possible when simplifying complex human drivers into simple job statements. Qualitative research should be structured to identify jobs that people are trying to accomplish and the expectations that people have for getting those jobs done.
Going further, people have emotional expectations of how their job will be done, and they have functional or performance expectations as well. User research should seek to understand both the desired and undesired expectations people may have in order to create a broad picture of the user’s world. This picture will allow for focused idea and concept generation later in the innovation process.
Traditional marketing activities can quantify if there are enough people seeking to do a particular job, and what they are willing to pay to make a solution profitable for your company. The key purpose of observing users at the start of the innovation process is to first find jobs that people are trying to solve with existing (or homemade workaround) solutions that do not meet their emotional or functional expectations. This iterative process will ultimately yield the growth opportunities that an organization is always looking for.
Roy Luebke is an innovation expert focused on discovering new, customer-driven opportunity areas to help define the future of a company. He is inspired by knowledge and learning, and applying structured tools and methods at the crossroads of strategy and innovation to achieve business growth.