thought leadership

Sprints, Iterations and Feedback Loops:


An Agile Approach to Research

As a research consultant focusing on product innovation and development, I do my best to maintain a pulse on new market entries and corporate initiatives. And hardly a day goes by when the word “innovation” doesn’t cross my radar, quite literally. Within the past week, two relevant articles surfaced in my inbox, highlighting the importance of innovation in the world of consumer-packaged goods:  “Arla Foods: Developing a taste for innovation and a big slice of data.” “Nestlé’s Milkybar world first with innovation to reduce sugar by 30%.” Innovation. It’s literally everywhere. And it’s absolutely everything. As some of you may know, at InsightsNow we’re kicking off Spring with a two-part webinar on Accelerating Innovation through Agile Techniques. Last month we addressed, “Clearing up the Fuzzy Front End.” This Thursday we’ll be focused on “Translation through Iterative Design.”  We’re highlighting how Agile methods help researchers get things done faster. Why agile techniques? Well, for starters, you reduce financial risks when you aren’t spending six figures on fuzzy front-end research.  Also, you increase team motivation and morale with highly focused, high energy initiatives.  And perhaps most importantly, you boost success rates and get products to market faster when you incorporate feedback loops and iterative learning cycles. Agile Innovation:  It Isn’t Just for Start-Ups Anymore R&D, in collaboration with their Marketing and Consumer Insights teams, needs to attack the market like a start-up would: with continuous discovery and product delivery, minimizing risk and expense while maximizing return on investment, and iterative research. Iterations are, in their simplest form, developmental cycles. Start-ups, if using the Scrum method, call each Iteration a Sprint. With Sprints, teams set incremental goals for what the Sprint is to accomplish, they plan initiatives designed to meet that goals, execute those projects, then reflect on what they learned and what they need to accomplish in their next Sprint. Plan. Execute. Learn. Reflect. Repeat, adapting and improving. Agile Research Techniques Similar to start-up style Agile Sprints, here’s a format to consider for your next Agile Research “Sprint”:
  • Set out on a course of Discovery, intent to learn, by planning and executing affordable consumer research.
  • After, debrief, share insights, leveraging the reflections of your team for Inspiration.
  • Next, take Action; get to work on whatever it is you need to act upon before the next round, incorporating consumer feedback.
  • Test what you developed and/or launch back into Discovery. Failure is okay (remember I talked about reduced financial risks?). With each failure comes more learning.
  • Repeat until you Succeed.
InsightsNow Shares Agile Values In 2017, we ranked on the GreenBook’s Grit Report list of top 50 Most Innovative Suppliers. We’re likely on the list because we share agile values with many of our clients and suppliers:
  • We appreciate individuals and our interactions over processes and tools (although we do have a tool or two up our sleeves).
  • We value customer collaborations, tweaking approaches based on feedback, and seeking out ways to work on projects together.
  • We break complex challenges into manageable chunks, incorporating feedback loops into proposals, presentations, and yes, even blog posts like this one.
  • We flexibly respond to change versus following a plan that no longer works or feels relevant.
(This year’s industry survey is out … have you taken it? If not, here’s the link: Have you signed up for our webinar? Remember, this week’s webinar will be focused on Translation Through Iterative Design. Won’t you join us as we discuss how to shift your mindset and your next research and innovation effort to one that is agile and affordable, while still effectively exploring, ideating and executing on your idea, product or service.  Here’s the link: Thanks, Karen Lynch Senior Director Qualitative Research, InsightsNow Inc.