Aslı Gök

Arçelik, Innovation

03.09.2021 - 14:33

How can we integrate the users and stakeholders into the innovation projects?

03.09.2021 - 14:33

In the world of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) which changes very fast, it is necessary to understand the latest needs to develop new projects.

It is increasingly important to meet users’ real needs and differentiate from the existing product to be successful and have a competitive advantage in the market.

Understanding need includes the needs of the user as well as understanding the need of different stakeholders in the project. Therefore, this article examines how we can integrate users and stakeholders into the innovation project development process in various ways and methods.

Including the user

Developing the product from a real and unmet need is one of the most important factors to reduce the distance between product and the market.

Therefore, it is important to reveal not only the clearly presented needs in user research, but also implicit, hidden, unmet needs in different ways for the success of the project.

Many different tools and methods can be used to understand the needs of users and to find out these needs. In this section, research methods were examined under the title of design thinking method to indicate the phases in product development processes and to emphasize which research method is more appropriate also in design thinking method.

What problem does it solve?

It helps to prevent problems such as starting from one's own need, finding solutions to a limited need, addressing a need that already exists in a different way, and addressing an outdated problem.

Design Thinking and User Research Methods

Design Thinking is one of the processes developed by IDEO that aims to reach the product/benefit/design by focusing on people.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, explains this approach as “Design thinking is a human-centred innovation approach that draws from designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success. “

The process consists of 6 steps.

In the 6-steps, many different methods can be used to involve the user into the process. The table contains method names according to te stages, and in the next part, the research methods are examined in detail.

Empathy Stage

Interview: It is a method of interactive communication in which the interviewer asks prepared questions on a specific subject. This method is usually performed face-to-face, the participants' thoughts on the subject are obtained qualitatively. Since the interviews with the person is carried out one-o-one, the effect of social norms reduces from the interview output, more in-depth information is gathered.

Ethnography: It can be defined as a method of collecting information without interfering to the user's own personal space. Normally, anthropologists have been using this method of research for a long time can take weeks, months or even years. In product development process, the information can be collected by observation, interview, video recording methods or photos. The most appropriate methods that can be used in product development processes can be considered “Netnography”, “Cultural Probes”, “Diary Studies”, “Shadowing”.

Focus Group: In the focus group method, the moderator guides the discussion with questions on a particular topic with a group of target users. With this method, spontaneous reactions of group participants are revealed. Spontaneous responses are important to understand users' initial perception on a specific subject.

Survey: Survey is one of the quantitative research methods, data is obtained with the answers given by the users. The survey method may include data about the user's interest and how to behave under certain conditions. If the survey is carried out during the test phase, the user's ideas and behaviours about the product/idea/concept data are obtained.

User Journey: The user journey and the target user's entire interaction with the product are thoroughly studied and the user's thoughts, feelings and behaviours are analyzed at all stages of the user experience.

Persona: Persona is the representation of the target user who uses the product. Persona contributes to life of the person who uses the product in terms of representation, creates an opinion on what to focus on in terms of developing the product and it can be incorporated into different stages.

Empathy Map: A map created to determine what the target user sees, hears, does and thinks, and most importantly, their pains and gains. Data is created especially to capture points of opportunity and provide insights to focus on.

Stage of Developing an Idea

Co-design with the participants: Idea development methods can be applied with the target user. The solutions developed in a multifaceted way with people from different professional groups taking part in the sessions are shaped together with the comments of the users.

Test Phase

Availability Test: The availability test measures how much and how the target user performs the tasks given when using the product. Availability tests can be performed in two different ways as qualitatively and quantitatively.

A/B Test: It is done to evaluate two or more different designs to find out which one is more effective.

Heuristic Assessment: It is the method by which two or more experts evaluate the product according to certain criteria.

Including Internal Customers and Stakeholders

To increase cooperation &collaboration in product development process, it is especially important to receive stakeholder support who will take part in the project adopt it, participate in different stages or be informed about the stages.

Who is this stakeholder? A stakeholder is a person, group or organization that will affect or be affected by the decisions of the project output, the entire development process, and its output.

By sharing important information with the appropriate stakeholders, the project team should be able to obtain approval for the innovation project to be developed so that it can be can understood the expectations and barriers of the customer and potential stakeholders and integrate them into the process at the beginning of the project.

What problem does it solve?

It helps stakeholders to be informed, adopt the project, and participate into its development stages. 

Stakeholders can be grouped according to their interest in the project and their strength on the project as per stakeholder table. Communication can be ensured in different ways according to the categories in these groups. In the table, the ways of inclusion according to the groups are indicated and they are explained in detail below.

Watching it with minimum effort

Informing: Informing can be made face-to-face such as presentation and panel, or it can be prepared in the form of promotional documents as hard copy and online. The important thing here is to raise awareness in related person.

Pleasing - Informing Regularly

Interview and Survey: Interviews and surveys can be conducted face-to-face or online. It can be done at the beginning of the project to understand the expectations or to get feedback in the later stages of the project. Different methods can be used such as qualitative and quantitative, for different purposes.

Idea Generation: Stakeholders can be included in idea generation phase of the project. So that the stakeholders carry their knowledge and opinions to the idea stage of the project and adopt it.

Manage It Closely

Focus Group Study: Focus group study can be done to understand the needs and expectations of stakeholders. These studies can also be used to make stakeholders understand each other's expectations, enable them to discuss and put forward agreed topics.

Workshop: Stakeholders can be included in the preparation phase of the project and strategy development stage such as problem analysis workshop, participatory design workshops and brainstorming. Workshops prepared in advance for the specified purpose are beneficial to understand the subject better and contribute at important points.

Including into Project: Stakeholders can be included in the project according to their competencies. The stakeholders involved in the project contribute as a business, contribute by intervening where necessary, and therefore their feeling of ownership and belonging increases.

Including into decision: It is especially important to include stakeholders who are interested and have a high impact on the project into the decision-making process at important points of the project. Voting at certain key points, allowing them contribute verbally to decision-making stages, increases both their own knowledge about the project and the level of their satisfaction about the result.


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