Defining Experiments at OTA 2015

It was back to Over The Air last week and a new way to get people to think about reducing risks in the assumptions they make about people. I ran a very interactive workshop where people got to work on their own products. My intention is to make Product Doctor experiences INSIGHTFUL and ENTERTAINING so I was pleased to get a few laughs and the comments below:

“…a challenging but fun workshop on product development at #ota15…just a pity it wasn’t longer…I am going to use what I have learnt today at my workshop on Monday to design some research experiments”

OTA Session 2015

We were working on the honesty to admit assumptions we are making and then how to turn them in to SMART research experiments (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). I didn’t use this acronym in the workshop itself so as not to expose my 1990s corporate experiences, but frankly, it does work well as a checklist. The participants worked in groups around great real-life case studies offered up by people working on them in the room using the process you will see in slide 4 of this powerpoint.

It’s great working with examples from the room – the range always fascinates me and we got to some really tightly defined experiments. The products ranged from testing out whether reminding people on a daily basis of their achievements improves their self esteem; whether children would still use phones if they had child-lock on them; whether an online whiteboard would improve willingness to study; whether different people in a business need different security levels on their internal systems; whether there was an appetite for business to buy “speed enhancing software for their e-commerce sites and finally how to improve take up of a co-working area “oystercard”.

Key areas of discussion were:

1). How important looking in the eyes is rather than using surveys when trying to assess pain levels and whether they are great enough to pay for solutions. How can you assess real pain without doing that?!

2). How easy it can be to get face to face in the natural environment rather than sending out a survey or getting on the phone. There seems to be a natural tendency to shy away from meeting people in the flesh, which is why we do a practice session later on in the workshop. e.g. if you are researching how people behave in co-working spaces, go there to observe and question people.

3). How easy it would be to do a smoke and mirrors mock up of a product to get it in to people’s hands and test out the reactions that you think it is going provoke. e.g. set up a manual text service sending positive messages to people rather than asking them whether they might like the idea.

4). Making sure that you are using evidence already available before designing your own experiments e.g. in the realm of education, there must be a lot of research showing the positive impacts of white boards used in the right way. Massive savings on time and money.

5). How important it is to research with customers who are buying the product, as well as the people who might just be using the product e.g. in the case of parents buying products for their children – research assumptions you have made with both groups.

6). How research output can be turned into the key proposition message. e.g. using quoted e-commerce site owners description of their pain as the proposition messages to others in their position.

So that was it for another year – always delighted to be a part of the grassroots hub-bub that is OTA. Big thanks to the participants of the workshop, all of whom got involved and to Dan, Margaret and Matthew & Team for having me back.

Product Doctor offers training, workshops, consultancy and qualitative research to help innovating product owners, marketers & entrepreneurs develop meaningful propositions, brands & products. Contact: Julia@productdoctor.co.uk.

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