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Pipeline Accelerator Blog

The Invisible Gorilla & Finding Unmet Customer Needs

Are unmet needs your invisible gorillaFinding unmet customer and market needs is a critical accelerator for your new product pipeline. And “The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us”, holds a surprising insight to customer visits.

It shares a study where participants watch the video below and are charged with counting the number of times a basketball was touched by someone wearing a white shirt. Easy enough, right?

The insight is that half of the participants were so focused on the task that afterward, they had no recollection of seeing a gorilla that strolls through the room during the video.  It’s what the authors call the illusion of attention and the illusion of memory. Basically, we put far more faith in our powers of observation than is warranted.

The Attention & Recall Test

The Gorilla and Customer Visits

So what does this have to do with finding unmet customer needs? If that’s your interest, you know it’s important to spend time in the field talking with customers. It requires impeccable listening skills and copious note-taking. If you’ve ever participated in one of these interviews, you know there is lots of information you must pay attention to and later recall – all subject to that illusion of memory.

Managing the Visit

The problem is that keeping everything from the interview straight means that you could easily miss the gorilla walking through the room – or more specifically clues that point to an opportunity to profitably serve a new unmet or unarticulated customer need. That’s why I always coach new product development teams to divide and conquer by having three people participate in field visits to find unmet customer needs.

The first person leads the discussion and asks the questions.  The second takes notes to aid recall afterward.  The role of the third is to watch for the gorilla. To listen for clues that the other two might miss because of their task orientation on asking and note-taking, to ask follow-up questions for clarification, and to explore unexpected lines of inquiry.

PS – I highly recommend against taking notes using a keyboard. Even if the interviewee says they are OK with you transcribing it is a costly distraction. 

The Debrief

The other important element in this process is the team debriefing that follows.  Information accuracy has a half-life so you must record it while still fresh in your mind. You may have notes of what was said, but recollections of emotions and body language fade fast.

Schedule debriefing sessions after interviews and never wait until you get back to the office to debrief. You risk losing valuable information. And if you are conducting multiple interviews, always debrief before conducting the next interview. It’s critical to use what you’ve learned to improve successive sessions.

Improve Your Visits

So have you been missing any gorillas in your customer interactions?

Don’t forget to check out my free downloadable template to help you find better new product insights.

Download Our Free Customer Value Accelerator Guide

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