Synopsis of this post
Generating customer insights is still too formal, too slow and built around an old fashioned model of decision making. To get more growth, we must look for new entrepreneurial ways to understand the changing customer needs, so we can respond more quickly
Recently I was reading an interview with Gary Hamel on innovative management and the ways businesses need to adapt to a world that is shifting away from hierarchical control based organisations to a more interdependent network based style. So instead of teams just following the orders of the boss and using the company’s own internal resources, we find self directed people and motivated teams proactively seeking opportunities that will benefit the business. They do this using a mixture of internal resources and alliances with customers and suppliers.
This has become possible as businesses have moved from manufacturing products dependant on large scale capital and organised labour to creating value through ideas and services that are more thinking intensive and less dependant on these rigid manufacturing scale economies. See this link for more discussion on this.
Our earlier discussion about the role of the internal entrepreneur highlighted how growth is often driven by a few committed individuals who have the vision to ensure their idea will succeed and are prepared to kick down the doors and constraints of the organisation to ensure the new product or service is launched. These people seem to be in the vanguard of this change and are prepared to try out new ways of working to get things done. These internal entrepreneurs know that they need to deploy the entrepreneurial drive of the smaller business but must harness the financial, brand and system resources of their company to get the idea off the ground.
This is no different from the ways successful entrepreneuers operate. They see the need to find out what customers think and do it all the time. Anyone who has seen Stelios on an Easyjet flight or Richard Branson on a Virgin plane will know that they talk to the people on the plane.
Some specific things we have tried and seen other people try
- Fast turnaround online survey tools using something like www.surveymonkey.com
- Internal surveys to capture the organisations’ experience of customers
- Spend time at your internal meetings gathering customer experiences (encourages people to get some customer experience of their own if they know they are expected to contribute).
- Creating your own panel that you can invite in to react to new ideas and give feedback.
- Set up self managed product or concept testing in venues where the target market congregate e.g. university canteens, gardening clubs, trade shows.