My answer to I have an idea for a start up. How do I find out if people would be interested in the service?
Answer by Ken Larson:
The best business intelligence results from astute market research and an understanding of what market research really is:
“Erika Hall – Wired Magazine”
“Research is not about whether people “like” or don’t like something. No business should ever use the word “like.” Like is not a design word and has nothing to do with any business goal. It’s just a reported mental attitude with no necessary connection to behavior. (Same thing with “hate”: I may hate The Newsroom, but I still watch it. Why? The better to hate it.)
In market research, this is known as the difference between “declared preference” — the fruit of focus groups — and “revealed preference” or reality.
Yet focus groups are not research; they’re research theater. They tell us very little about how real people behave in the real world. The brilliant sociologist and father of focus groups Robert K. Merton later lamented their misuse in replacing research: “Even when the subjects are well selected, focus groups are supposed to be merely the source of ideas that need to be researched.”
When the research focuses on what people actually do (watch cat videos) rather than what they wish they did (produce cinema-quality home movies) it actually expands possibilities. But a common concern and excuse for not doing research is that it will limit creative possibilities to only those articulated by the target users, leaving designers devising a faster horse (lame) rather than a flying car (rad).
The key is to be honest about how much we really know.
We need to identify our most critical assumptions, and then decide how to validate them. For example, a common assumption is that the organization — given its structure and business model — is capable of delivering the service the entrepreneur envisions.
An even more common, fundamental assumption in any design is that the problem the entrepreneur (and by entrepreneur I mean both at startups and inside large organizations) has decided to solve is a real problem — and one where potential users will value having a new solution.
Maybe knocking out a prototype or building a company is the fastest, cheapest way to learn. But often it’s not. Sure, a prototype can tell us if the user understands the potential solution — but if it’s solving a problem no one has, why bother building it in the first place?”
It becomes immediately apparent, when we try to understand our fellow humans through research, that we are not rational creatures. But when it comes to making business decisions, research helps address that irrationality and increases our chances to succeed. And make no mistake: in a world where design makes or breaks success, all product design decisions are business decisions. Asking the right questions will lead to useful insights.”