Innovation research is most often done in person, often as part of groups of one kind or another, but this is limiting. People have only a brief amount of time to first grasp the idea and then figure out how they would shake things up. And that’s not including the natural social adjustments every group has to go through (storming, norming, and performing). A talented researcher can overcome that and deliver great insights, but it’s not easy.
It’s a lot easier to do this in online communities where participants have more time to adjust and get used to an idea, live with it and imagine how they would use it daily, how they would change it and improve upon it.
Image by Flickr user onefish2
One of the many factors in the success of an online innovation research community is recruitment. Choosing your participants has several layers. For instance, you need to be sure they can participate in the first place – daily access to a good internet connection (which could be at work) is a must, as is being comfortable online.
Beyond that basic layer, you then have two choices. In general, there are two types of groups to choose for an innovation project. The first are those who are passionate about the product or service and are also part of the target audience. This type of consumer gives a great glimpse into how what we’re working on can fit in with the consumers’ daily lives. This group is most useful during the exploratory early stages of innovation.
Once the ideas progress, you need to bring in the group 2 type of consumer, your innovators. These people are like the first group, but take things a further. Here are some of the traits, in no particular order, we look for in a great group 2 innovator for an online research community:
- Adventurous – When it comes to innovation, you can’t be constantly looking over your shoulder. Participants in these communities have to be happy to encounter and think about new things and how things can change.
- Articulate – We love participants who love to talk. Outgoing and adventurous isn’t enough, they also have to be happy to speak their minds, no matter how silly an idea might be at first glance. Sometimes those are the best ideas!
- Creative – Some of our favorite participants worked in creative professions. Everything from animation to cake decorating. Of course, working in a creative field isn’t a requirement, but being able to think creatively is a definite must.
- Passionate – In order to help innovate a category or product, you have to be passionate about it. Our innovators, whether online or offline, have to really care about what they are doing. A casual user just won’t cut it.
- Knowledgeable – Beyond just loving the product or service, they also have to know a lot about the industry or brand. This brings the ideas to a whole new level of nuance and creativity.
- Detail-Oriented – While there is definitely an opportunity for probing in online communities, it helps if participants are very thorough and detailed in their responses from the get go. It also gives the other participants something to talk reply to – leading to some great interactions on our message boards.
Finding your group 2 consumer innovators is not always easy, but it is important to get it right. The research relies on the participants, so we like to put in the effort to find the right kind of people to work with. Recruiting these participants can be a multi-step process, sometimes starting online with a Facebook or Twitter announcement to a brand’s online audience, followed by a quick qualifying survey, then a phone discussion to verify requirement criteria such as being articulate, and finally perhaps even a trial online community or in-person workshop – all before the actual research begins.