Needs spur action unless it emphasizes needs

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NEEDS SPUR ACTION. Unless it emphasizes needs, qualitative social re- search can only create a picture of the customer s experience; it will not uncover ways to improve that experience. Even the most detailed description of customers behavior and environments won t help product developers if it doesn t expose opportuni-
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ties for action. Once a need has been identified, designers can visualize a problem to be solved. NEEDS ARE OBVIOUS AFTER THE FACT, NOT BEFORE. People become acclimated to their problems, often developing work-arounds to circumvent a need. In doing so, they can become oblivious to the need s existence.1 Again, research that relies on the customer s description of a situation may never uncover this need. Because many needs are appar- ent only after they ve been solved, research focused on needs suggests opportunities that competitors may not recognize. For example, consider India- based Bajaj Auto, the world s largest motor-scooter manufacturer. Until recently, most Bajaj scooter owners insisted that they were happy with the way the product operated. Yet before starting a Bajaj scooter, the rider would have to tilt it to fill the eccentrically mounted engine with fuel. Bajaj owners recognized this problem only after Honda introduced a model in India with a center-mounted engine that didn t require tilting. Honda went on to make significant inroads into the market Bajaj had previously dominated. What are the central principles of Needfinding? Needs can be difficult to detect. Although previously undiscovered needs occasion- ally appear to designers by happenstance, most of us aren t that lucky. Uncovering needs reliably requires an or- ganized research effort. Needfinding gives designers and companies the tools nec- essary for illuminating needs and using them for product development. The following points characterize the phi- Looking for needs rather than specific solutions keeps all possible solutions open for consideration and avoids prematurely limiting possibilities losophy behind Needfinding. LOOK FOR NEEDS, NOT SOLUTIONS.
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Looking for needs rather than specific solutions keeps all possible solutions open for consideration and avoids prematurely limiting possibilities. Needfinding researchers state needs independently of ways those needs might be served. For example, a store clerk might need to get some boxes from a high shelf. Instead of stating that the clerk needs a ladder, a Needfinding researcher would record that he needs access to boxes on the top shelf. The need leaves open possible solutions that range from using a forklift to rearranging the boxes to coming up with an entirely novel technology. MAKE RESEARCH AND DESIGN SEAMLESS. Needfinding researchers are often designers trained in research methods or researchers taught how to conceptualize designs. They may approach the process from a traditional marketing background. In any case, these researchers are in- volved in both studying people and conceptualizing new products. This approach allows for a seamless transition between research and design. The re-
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