Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reaching out from the box

In December 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review Coyne et.al. present a methodology how to generate new ideas in familiar settings. In short the idea is that instead of trying to think "outside-the-box" people should think "inside-the-box" - just refine the box so that you get fresh and structured ideas. In the paper they give some questions that you can ask to make a product better and find new ideas how to improve it. Here are two examples of questions you can ask:
  • Which customer uses our product in the most unusual way?
  • Who uses our product in ways not expected?
This article came to my mind when I today read Nokia's latest press release that included statistics how phone sharing is emerging. Quote from the release:
More than 50% of respondents in India, Pakistan and nearly 30% in Vietnam indicate that they share, or would share, their mobile phone with family or friends - a figure which contrasts consumer behaviour in more mature markets.
In western countries mobile phone is one of the most personal products, from some study I found a result that if a british teenager forgets his home keys, that's not a problem and he will not return to take those. If he forgets his mobile phone, he will immediately return home and pick the phone.

What all this has to do with HBR'a article referred above? According to Nokia there is a huge number of people wanting to use mobile phones in such a way that (my guess) is unexpected from the network operator's and device manufacturer's point of view. In the press release Nokia tells that they have some innovations that take into account users' need to share the terminal but I'm sure that both terminal manufacturers and network operators could practice some structured "inside-a-new-box" thinking here. Perhaps start with the questions from above?


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