New American Dream?


Last week we heard a story on the radio how IKEA was doing research – no, not about the furniture, but about what defines the American Dream. It happens that Americans care more about quality of life than accumulating possessions, and the American dream is more about experiences than owning things. This is a profound insight.

Although the research results may seem like bad news for a company like Ikea, a well-known purveyor of low-cost home furnishings, but that’s not how Ikea sees it.  By understanding what their customers want out of life, Ikea can position itself accordingly.  For example, many of the experiences customers seek take place in the home–holiday gatherings with extended family, movie nights with the kids, backyard marshmallow roasts on a chilly fall evening.  While Ikea can’t sell experiences, it can sell products that enable these experiences:  large tables and comfortable chairs for family gatherings, comfortable sofas for movie night, and outdoor furniture for marshmallow roasts.  By positioning its products as a means to achieve the desired experiences, Ikea can more effectively connect with its customers.

Every company should strive to understand their customers better. Companies that prioritize in-depth knowledge of their customers are making a sound investment in their future.

No matter the size of your company, we can customize a research plan to help you understand your customers’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

You can read the story here:


Future Thinking

Your business must Future_thinking_1innovate and change to survive. Leaders rightly look to innovation and creativity as key sources of differentiation and competitive advantage.

An all-too-common myth about innovation is that brilliant ideas leap fully formed from the minds of geniuses. The reality is that most innovations are the product of structured approaches and tested methodologies. In other words, there is a method to the madness.

“I am not a creative person; it’s just not me”, is something we often hear from our clients. Wrong! We all have creative genius inside. Thomas Edison’s creative process, involved endless rounds of trial and error. He failed much more often than he succeeded, but through consistent effort created astounding inventions. Hence the well-known phrase, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

How do “those creative people” come up with great ideas? They work hard at it. And so can you. Let’s get started.

  • Change your patterns: Disrupt your “default” thinking by doing something familiar but in a different way. Use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth or handle a fork. Take a different route to work. Park in a new spot. Listen to music you despise. Watch or listen to news from a source which opposes your views. Don’t judge your experience, just observe and note what’s happening. Shaking up your routine will force your brain out of its default patterns and spur new ways of thinking.
  • Observe people around you: At a grocery store, airport or restaurant, observe with curiosity and detachment. Ask questions. Why did she leave her shopping cart in the middle of the aisle? Who uses a shopping list and who doesn’t? How do people prepare for the airport security check? Do they take their shoes off first? Or do they put their bags on the belt first and then take their shoes off? Why does it take some people so long to order food? Why do they sit at a certain table in a certain order? If you intently observe people and their behavior, you will be amazed at the incredible insights revealed.
  • Read something out of your comfort zone: We all love reading about what we like and know, but this doesn’t boost creativity. Start consuming content you wouldn’t normally read. Find blogs from a different industry. Read books you ordinarily wouldn’t consider. I read my husband’s financial and investment books, and while they often bore me to tears, they make me think differently and apply lessons to new (and unrelated to finance) situations.Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner, is a fanatic interdisciplinary reader and thinker. He takes core ideas from one discipline and uses them to solve problems in another. Charlie applies the “lattice of mental models”: a range of theories from different disciplines such as psychology, history, mathematics, physics, biology and economics. One can benefit from the combined output to produce something he calls “Worldly Wisdom.”

These are just a few tips to help you develop the habits of a creative thinker, but there are lots more that we will be sharing with you.

Our “Think and Lead Differently” training module can show you and your team how to understand, capture, and incorporate your customer’s perspective. You will learn and practice Design Thinking methodology, using techniques such as empathy, sketching, ideation, and rapid prototyping to build better products and solutions.

Millennials and Gen Xers Aren’t As Different As You Think!

Last time we left you in suspense as Tara and I were visiting the home of a millennial family.  Through our work during the past year, we have learned that Millennials and Generation Xers aren’t as different as you might think!

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How to Better Understand Your Customers: The Power of Ethnography

On a damp November morning, we pull up to a townhouse in Silver Spring, Maryland, double-checking the address to make sure we have the right house. We huddle on the small porch amidst the damp leaves until our research participant, Chris, opens the door.

Before Chris can say hello, a giant black Labrador rushes to greet us. Chris walks us through the living room, dotted with toddler toys, to the dining room table where we take a seat and set up our equipment. The interview hasn’t even started, yet we have already learned a lot about Chris and his family.

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What if the future of innovation lies in the past?

When I was a kid, reruns of the Jetsons were the epitome of future imaginings.  Basking in the glow of the Space Age, the Jetsons promised us food that cooked itself, spaceships instead of cars, and conveyor belts that obviated the need for walking (the Jetsons were remarkably slim given their lack of exercise). The world envisioned by the creators of the Jetsons has failed to materialize, but the sharp contrast between the real and imagined future is instructive because it reveals a deep-seated assumption about progress that impedes our best efforts to be innovative.

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While wandering around the grocery store …

I noticed something different while wandering around the grocery store the other day. It’s a detail thing (I’m a computer guy – spending time on details comes with the territory); a specific part of a specific product: milk. In particular, how milk is presented at the store.

The store nearest us just finished a significant remodel. And as part of that, the milk cartons and bottles and such moved. The milk used to be available from one of the open cases – you know, the ones that are just shelves, back in the cold part of the store, with nothing between you and the cartons. Read more

Can Shopping for a Bathing Suit Get Any Worse? Evidently, It Can

I wonder if the inhabitants of the Bikini Atoll, from which the name of the eponymous women’s swimsuit was derived, have any idea the marketing nightmare the name “bikini” has wreaked on women’s swimwear. Men, you may want to sit down for this—it’s going to get a little complicated, and I assure you that by the time you finish reading, you’ll thank your lucky Speedos you don’t have to buy women’s swimwear.

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