Testing an Idea By Asking The World

By: Neil Menezes

Sure, you’ve figured out that technically, your idea for a new product or process will work. But idea evaluation doesn’t stop there. Now you need to ask yourself, “Is our idea something our customer wants?” “Will employees will find this new process easy to use?” or “What can we do that would make this new idea even better?”

It’s never been easier, or cheaper, to test out new ideas with your end-user group, whether it be other businesses, consumers or your own employees. With today’s technology, advanced manufacturers can quickly find out how their target audience will respond to something new. Features installed on web sites can tell you within hours if customers like a new product or whether new efforts to boost process productivity are going to work in your own company. It’s no wonder that global consumer goods giants like Proctor and Gamble do the majority of concept testing online. And we all know that software companies depend on feedback from customer forums to send revisions back to developers.

When Xerox Corporation began research and development into its “erasable paper” technology, leveraging customer feedback through focus groups and discussions was a critical step in the research.

“We made it what people were really asking for,” describes Dr. Paul Smith, Manager at Xerox Research Centre of Canada’s new materials and synthesis lab in Mississauga.

In an interview with Black and White, Smith describes how his team’s research, like any research project, was redefined after hearing back from the customers.

On March 22, attendees at Innovate Forward’s next session “How to Evaluate Your Ideas”, will hear from Dr. Smith. Leveraging customer response is one part of the idea evaluation process.

Dr. Smith is a named inventor on 55 U.S. patents and has published 16 research articles. Since joining Xerox in 1995, he has led teams that have developed key materials for Xerox product platforms. In August 2011 he was named vice president and manager of the Xerox Research Centre of Canada.

Register to attend Innovate Forward March 22, 2012. All sessions are free for advanced manufacturers in Ontario.

See Youtube interviews with Paul Smith on 2 research projects:

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