In Search of What is Missing – Needfinding the SIRIUS Way

Å. Ericson, T. Larsson, and A. Larsson (Sweden)

Keywords

Product development, innovation, needfinding, education, and collaborative decisionmaking

Abstract

“Listen closely to your customers, and you are more likely to design products that actually meet or even exceed their needs.”: such statements have come to dominate company innovation strategies in the last decade, but in reality involving customers in product development (the development of physical artefacts) is not as straightforward as it sounds. Customers, it is becoming clear, cannot always express their needs adequately. Especially, in the case of innovative products where the starting position by definition includes no existing solution, applying a user-orientated approach is paramount. We argue that techniques for ‘needfinding’ must be the point of departure. This has importance both in terms of methodological issues – how to find customer needs? – and for organizational work – who should be engaged in finding customer needs? In our view, engineers must be involved in identifying and understanding those needs. We have learnt through a series of studies, that structured needfinding by engineers during the earliest phases of product development could better support the process of identifying needs and thereby guide design projects. In this way, two basic problems are overcome. Firstly, identifying needs which are otherwise difficult to articulate becomes possible. Secondly, translation difficulties between customers and engineers are eradicated.

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