Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes to Foster Innovation and Creativity

Would-be innovators need to break free of preexisting views. Unfortunately, the human mind is surprisingly adroit at supporting its deep-seated ways of viewing the world while sifting out evidence to the contrary. Indeed, academic research suggests that even when presented with overwhelming facts, many people (including well-educated ones) simply won’t abandon their deeply held opinions. The antidote is personal experience: seeing and experiencing something firsthand can shake people up in ways that abstract discussions around conference room tables can’t. For executives who want to start bolstering their own creative-thinking abilities—or those of a group—we suggest activities such as:

  • Go through the process of purchasing your own product or service—as a real consumer would—and record the experience. Include photos if you can.
  • Visit the stores or operations of other companies (including competitors) as a customer would and compare them with the same experiences at your own company.
  • Conduct online research and gather information about one of your products or services (or those of a competitor) as any ordinary customer would. Try reaching out to your company with a specific product- or service-related question.
  • Observe and talk to real consumers in the places where they purchase and use your products to see what offerings accompany yours, what alternatives consumers consider, and how long they take to decide.
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