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Idea Generation Systems

Posted On: 2007-01-12Length:

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By now we all know that many entrepreneurs have started from some small seed of an idea, and they've built their businesses, and why we may not all be Bill Gates or the Donald, we can come up with some pretty astounding products and new ideas that work. We just need to learn some secrets. So to that end we've invited David Minter, co-author of "Lightning in a Bottle," the proven system to create new ideas and products that work. He says he can help us with his system, and we welcome you David. So here's the deal, David. So we're going to brainstorm and we're going to call in focus groups and we're going to spend $35,000 on focus groups and brainstorming, and then we'll be the Donald, right?

Not exactly. You know, actually the creative geniuses of our time, you know the Rupert Murdocks and Ted Turners, for the most part don't believe in or need those kinds of tools. Those guys are kind of a rare breed. The rest of us need some training wheels.

Ok. So you say you have a system. What is your system, exactly?

At the core of it is developing ways to better listen to what consumers want. So, the things you described as far as focus groups, and the tools that have been used in the past, brainstorming, by and large have a lot of problems in, and what we found in kind of a hard way in working with corporate America is what works and what doesn't. And you take something like focus groups, you know at the end of all this is nine out of ten new products is failing, so you have to go upstream and find out what's wrong. And focus groups is an example. The problem you've got is you have strangers in a room who don't buy things in that fashion. But the core of the problem is you've got a couple minutes with each person, and that's simply not long enough. So at the core of all of this, and coming up with better ideas that have higher odds, are listening to people and for a longer period of time, and listen to consumers for what they want, an hour at a time is what we do.

You know, I have an example for you. I took part in a focus group one time, and I didn't need the money, they only paid $50. But I did it because I was just, you know, it was sort of exciting. I wanted to see what one was like.

Sure.

So, it was, I still don't know what telephone company it was, but it was a bunch of us in a room, like about 10 or 12 of us. And they asked us questions about our phone service, and about cell phones, and everything. And I looked around the table and I was like the only person there, the only really business person there. Because who else can come at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday, you know what I mean?

Sure.

So it was housewives and people like that, you know. But the product that they wanted us to talk about was this nifty little phone gadget thing. So everybody hated it and thought it was too complicated. Well, that didn't work.

No, and they often don't. We've done, you know, over 25 years, hundreds of focus groups. And focus groups are good for certain purposes. They're just not good for new product development. And entrepreneurs really know this. And have kind of learned it. And they're more likely to go to the answer, interestingly enough, of spending more time talking to a fewer number of people to really get inside their heads and find out what they want and what they don't want...

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