Proponents of big data leverage it to connect to customers and respond to their needs. The way they do this is by surveying as many customers as possible and - based on those surveys - defining what works and what doesn't. Big data can indeed provide some insights into customer behavior and needs, but it doesn't have the ability to go beyond improving what you have already created.

This is because big data provides information from the masses, most of whom will not think creatively about your product or service.

Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Average users will think in average ways about your product. And that will lead to your company developing another average product.

On the other hand, innovation, by definition, consists of launching something new to the market in order to please (and sometimes surprise) your customers and answer market needs. This is best done by surveying your biggest fans, who are using your product religiously and have tons of ideas about it.

Extreme users are willing to experiment and some of them have already improved on your product in a way you never dreamed of. Because they tend to have radical personalities they are able to come up with radical ideas and appreciate extreme innovation when presented with it. And they often represent what your mainstream client will be like in a few years.

One technique we use at Triode is Design Thinking. Most of the time, by interviewing 15 to 20 "extreme" users we are able to identify insights and design solutions that will meet market needs...with only 20 interviews! This saves your company time and money and provides you with much better ideas than you can get from big data.

So instead of going for the masses and conducting surveys with 100-200 customers, why not try something new today?

Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.