If You Build It, They Will Come

on December 8, 2010

While this adage may have worked in Field of Dreams, a recent project helped me learn that it ain’t necessarily so. It also highlighted the role, and importance, of insights in problem-solving.

What is an “insight”?

An insight is an observation that matters. It’s something that can inform the way you think about a problem you’re trying to solve, or that can help you solve it directly. Simple as that.

How can insights help you solve problems?

Insights help you solve problems first by clarifying what the problem really is, and second, by helping you understand the needs of your end-users in a deep way.

Here’s a quick description of a project that illustrates what can happen if you don’t first look for insights to inform aproblem statement:

A VP of Internal Communications at a global hotel brand came to us a couple years ago with a really cool idea. She wanted to create a fun and valuable way to engage front-line employees and managers in training and best-practice sharing. She asked us if we could create a massively multi-player online game within which we would house all of their existing training materials. This game would have a peer-to-peer best-practice sharing component, an online economy, rewards, and competition. All of the key elements of game theory would be employed.

With an enthusiastic “yes” we embarked on a year-long journey to create the perfect internal training game and simulation. We delivered the product with tremendous fanfare to a very pleased client and an enthusiastic employee audience. Success!

Except that the game failed. Nobody played it. I am not exaggerating – not a single person played the game.“What was going on?” we asked ourselves. “Maybe the rollout campaign wasn’t engaging enough? Maybe the login isn’t working correctly?” We ran some focus groups and surveys to gain insight into what was happening.Within a few days we had our answer. Nobody at the hotel had TIME to play the game. It was dead on arrival.

Imagine how much money and time we could have saved our client (who was pleased with our solution, mind you) had we simply sought to gain insight into our end-users’ needs at the beginning of the project instead of waiting until the end! We would have re-framed the need from a user-centric point of view that would have potentially led us to very different solution, one that likely would have been widely adopted.

Instead of assuming that “if we build it, they will come,” let’s make sure they need it. Let’s drive insights to uncover unarticulated needs so that the solutions we create just “work”.

— “Field of Dreams” is a product of Universal Studios

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