December 16, 2007

Understanding How Barriers Can Become Opportunities For Innovation

One of the most significant learnings I've had in the innovation process is the importance of identifying barriers of consumption.

Why are certain people not interested in a given category or brand?
What are the barriers that lead them to become non-consumers?
How can we convert those insights in a product concept or service that can expand the business footprint to bring in these non-consumers?

This past Friday, during a business lunch we were discussing how marketers are obsessed with learning everything about their consumer base but don't use the same discipline to learn from non-consumers. To state my point I went on to talk about a personal experience I had last year at an Apple Store in Connecticut. My wife wanted to buy a MacBook
®. Once in the store the salesperson noticed that, while my wife was excited, I seemed resistant. When the salesperson asked me what bothered me I said that I felt discouraged to buy a Mac because I had many personal files in my old PC. The simple thought of converting everything to a new computer seemed like a terrible hassle, especially with an operating system I wasn't familiar with. Understanding the barrier, he told me to go home and bring my PC and that the store would convert all my old files to the Mac. I could pick up my fully-loaded Mac the following day. That's exactly what I did and our Family is extremely happy with our MacBook®.

It seems simple, but why don't other computer stores do the same? Apple not only makes great products but they're willing to go the extra mile to remove barriers from consumers who spent years in the PC comfort zone, like myself.

The lesson here can apply to any business. How can we remove the barriers that some people have in relation to our products or services and use those insights in our innovation process?

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