The Importance of Iteration Throughout Each Stage of Development: How to Avoid Insanity

Aug 18, 2015

Innovation and iteration go hand in hand. But before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s set the stage with sports.

In my former life, I was a volleyball player. For 15+ years, from elementary school all the way though college, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a lot of good ol’ coaching advice. Lucky for me, this advice translated over to the real world—and to market research—quite nicely. In particular, there are two pieces of advice that I continually received during my volleyball days that I’m able to apply to both market research innovation and iteration seamlessly:

1. I once had a really energetic, passionate coach who constantly repeated, “What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Trust me, hearing this day in and day out became annoying. But, the principle behind the saying has really stuck with me for all these years. Our coach would typically say this in situations where the entire team or one individual was repeating a bad habit, bad play, and especially if we had just lost a game because of the aforementioned two things.

2. As a tall, gangly, defensive player who looked slightly like a baby giraffe, I was frequently told to “fall forward” when playing back-row defense. For some quick background, there is a very strong, natural tendency (and bad habit) of defensive players of all ages to fall backwards when digging volleyballs rather than falling forward. This was a skill that I practiced, literally, every single day for four years straight in college.

So, What’s the Connection to Innovation and Iteration?

At GutCheck, we often hear about the challenges our clients face when it comes to confidently going to market with products or concepts. Unfortunately, many times, consumer feedback isn’t obtained until the end of the development process, which leaves room for error and opens the door to the possibility of launching an unsuccessful product. Once the product actually goes to market, and teams discover it’s not a real winner with consumers, it’s already too late. But, this can be fixed! We know that in order to create a new product, ideation and development happens along the way… So, why not get consumer feedback with each phase to better ensure the time and effort will pay off in the end?

Linking Innovation & Iteration back to the Definition of Insanity

Many companies understand that simply gaining consumer feedback at the final stage of concept development—and expecting an outstanding product—isn’t the best practice. The process needs to change! Therefore, GutCheck strongly believes in iterating early and often throughout the entire development cycle to avoid the consequences that come with missing the mark on a product.

Iteration Throughout every Stage of Development

Insight Stage:

  • Qualitatively explore the category
  • Typically done without any stimuli

Idea Stage:

  • Quantitatively screen and qualitatively refine product ideas
  • Typically conducted with short, descriptive idea statements and no images

Concept Elements Stage:

  • Quantitatively screen and qualitatively refine specific concept elements
  • Typically accompanied by a product description, claims, benefits, or reasons to believe

Full-Blown Concept Stage:

  • Quantitatively screen and qualitatively refine full-blown concepts
  • Ideally, a fully developed concept is shown with an image and a price

In working with several different types of clients across several different industries, we have found that the more you iterate throughout the process of innovation the more likely a successful outcome at the end of the funnel.

My favorite example of this was with one of our clients who is a large food & beverage company. This company was constantly developing concepts that they put directly into their final validation tool. However, these concepts consistently kept failing. That is where GutCheck came in. We helped to conduct an iterative, multi-phase research approach for the concepts in order to make sure that they were up to par prior to going into the validation tool. With this iterative approach to testing, the GutCheck optimized concept passed the validation tool with flying colors!

We like to think of iteration throughout the innovation process as an example of “falling forward.” Even if your product or idea fails at the insight stage, you are taking two steps forward in knowing what does not work in order to create something that does work; this type of iterative thinking makes the idea stage, and ultimately the final concept, that much more effective.

There you go, the link between volleyball, insanity, falling forward, and market research!

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