Months to Days: How Beyond Utilizes Lean Research to Rapidly Deliver Value

ResearchOctober 10th, 2018

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By: Josh Fryszer,  Insights Strategist and Eva Bandurowski, Insights Strategist

Organizations value research. It makes innovation possible. What parts of the research process could they do without? Long timelines, lost opportunities, large budgets, and inconclusive and/or irrelevant results. The good news is, research can pivot at speed. The recent success and growing adoption of lean methodologies challenge the belief that glacial practices must govern successful and valuable research. At Beyond, we are firm believers that quick, iterative research is not only possible, but imperative in delivering strong insights that serve as building blocks for making business and design decisions across the board.

Since we’re fortunate to have a skilled Insights team with strong command of quantitative and qualitative research, we devised an experiment to prove the worth of lean research.  

Our approach pinpointed a universally applicable problem, applied pressure to traditional slow-moving research methodologies, and produced a creative, iterative, and valuable solution–all while maintaining the rigor good research requires.

Our methodological ‘victim’ was Jobs to be Done (JTBD), a theory of innovation and product development which has gained significant traction in the product world. For those not aware of JTBD, it’s a research and development theory that frames, in a high level way, a consumer aspiration as a job’ and helps to shed light on potential product and service opportunities that consumer might ‘hire’ along the pathway to completion.  “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole” is a quote by Theodore Levitt which illustrates the ‘job’ (e.g. create a quarter-inch hole) for which customers ‘hire’ (e.g. a quarter-inch drill) a solution, on a simple level. Slightly more complicated examples might include: 1) business travelers don’t want a new closet organization system or a work wear subscription service, they want a faster way to pack, or 2) to fulfill the job of retaining more information faster, first year law school students might ‘hire’ mindfulness classes or noise blocking headphones.  

As a lean research team, however, we were frustrated in past experiences with the engineers of a particular version of the JTBD theory. Depending on which version of JTBD one subscribes to, a JTBD research project can take months to execute–similar in approach to executing a traditional market research project.

Our vision was to streamline this process by commandeering the best of JTBD–in order to frame the problem at hand, and marrying it with the Design Sprint framework–to more rapidly design, prototype and test a solution.  Specifically, we honed in on an opportunity for innovation in the retail space, allowing us to define an often nebulous white space in our own Manhattan backyard.

The Process

To kick off our process within the retail space, we built a survey in OnePulse. OnePulse is a tool which allows us to launch quick, three-question surveys and receive feedback in real-time, shortening the wait it takes for a survey in field.  The results returned within minutes, and pointed us to a seemingly stagnant job: quickly check-out in store

We then recruited interview participants (through the same platform) we could turn to to dig deeper into this space, allowing us to collect rich qualitative data and uncover the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.  

Using a map to break down the check out process into discrete steps, through one-on-one interviews we were able to get people to walk us through their experiences checking out in-store–along the way identifying their needs at each step of the job.

Once we had collected this information, it was time to identify specific, compelling opportunities. We surveyed people again in OnePulse with the goal of finding how important each of the individual needs were uncovered in the interviews, as well as how satisfied respondents felt in their ability to fulfil each of these needs.

Our interviews, supplemented by our OnePulse surveys, clearly suggested that we focus our efforts on the point of sale experience, as well as the process of selecting and entering into the quickest checkout line. Completing our lean JTBD research provided us enough information to define the problem area and prioritize prototyping approaches for these steps in the checkout process.

Enter our mini Design Sprint.  Feeling like we had enough data in just a couple of days to begin concepting, we regrouped around the problem area and, along with a diverse group of colleagues we brought in, conducted an ideation session in which we had two areas of focus:

‘How might we increase customers’ likelihood of choosing the quickest checkout line?’

‘How might we reduce the time spent to pay for items at the checkout counter?’

The aim of these ideation sessions was to rapidly sketch-out concepts to address these two areas, using the popular ‘Crazy 8’s’ exercise – rapid sketching that produces 8 ideas in 8 minutes. After some (constructive!) critiquing and decision making, we storyboarded the solutions for our UX designer to then prototype using the prototyping tool InVision.

The Goods:
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Results and Lessons Learned

Given the short amount of time we allotted to execute a traditionally tedious research process, we achieved significant results.

The concept, an app which allows shoppers to check-out in-store on their own device, minimizes the need to line-up and pay for items at the counter–and provides true value to users.  This was evidenced through the prototype tests we conducted using Lookback – a tool which allowed us to interact with users and view their screens in real time, while also recording the interview, all of which was done remotely. One participant summarized the overall sentiment we heard from the interviews,  saying The [in-store] checkout process should be as easy as it is when shopping online, and this idea starts to bring this to life.”  After the initial prototype, we received a lot of feedback (both positive and negative) which we used to refine the idea–providing even more value to users.

Myths die hard. But the adoption of such lean practices on a larger scale, even for industries outside retail, will begin to dismantle presumptions surrounding the need for glacial research methods. Collaboratively mapping tasks allows researchers to walk through processes and dig into previously discounted details with interview participants. Lean research and agile, iterative prototyping allows practitioners to walk away with rich insights in a fraction of the time–supporting both designers and product development teams to make a more significant impact with valuable work.