Falling Forward: Iterating Throughout Concept Development

iterating concepts to fall forward

Innovation and iteration go hand in hand. Take, for instance, the iPhone: as incredible of a technological innovation as it is, it does not exist in a vacuum. It is constantly improved upon through software and hardware updates, incorporating consumer insights and new ideas to make it better (usually!) with each iteration. Practice may not make perfect, but it definitely makes progress. Speaking of practice, let’s take a closer look at the importance of iterating throughout concept development through the lens of competitive sports.

In my former life, I was a volleyball player. For 15+ years, from elementary school all the way though college, I was the recipient of a lot of coaching advice. Lucky for me, this advice translated to the real world—and to market research—quite nicely. But there’s one particular piece of advice that I constantly come back to when discussing innovation and iteration in market research:

Fall forward.

There is a natural tendency of defensive volleyball players to fall backwards when digging volleyballs, deadening the impact of their hit. So as a tall, gangly defensive baby giraffe player, I was frequently told—OK, yelled at to “fall forward.” It was a skill that I practiced every single day in college.

So What’s the Connection to Innovation and Iteration?

We often hear about the challenges our clients face when it comes to confidently going to market with their concepts. Unfortunately, customer insights often aren’t obtained until the end of the ideation and development process, increasing the possibility of launching an unsuccessful product. Once the product is in market and teams discover it’s not a winner with consumers, it’s already too late. But this can be fixed! Why not get consumer feedback with each phase of development in order to ensure all that time and effort pay off in the end? Our clients have proven that taking concept testing seriously by iterating early and often throughout the entire development cycle helps avoid the consequences that come with failing to sufficiently validate a concept.

How to Iterate Throughout Every Stage of Development

Insight Stage

  • Explore the category with qualitative research
  • Stimuli are optional

Ideation Stage

  • Screen concepts using quantitative research
  • Refine product ideas with qualitative feedback
  • Stimuli are short, descriptive idea statements with no images

Concept Elements Stage

  • Quantitatively screen and qualitatively refine your specific concept elements
  • Stimuli include product description, claims, benefits, and/or reasons to believe

Full-Blown Concept Stage

  • Quantitatively screen and qualitatively refine your fully-developed concepts
  • Ideally, a full-grown concept is shown with an image and a price

In working with several clients across various industries, we have found that the more you iterate throughout the process of innovation, the more likely a successful outcome at the end of the funnel. My favorite example came when we first started working with one of our large food & beverage clients. The company’s approach to concept testing consisted of pushing every concept directly into their final validation tool. Not surprisingly, they consistently failed. So we helped them conduct an iterative, multi-phase approach to testing their individual concepts in order to make sure that they were refined prior to validation. Using this iterative approach to research, the company optimized a concept to pass the validation tool with flying colors!

Think of iteration throughout the innovation process as an example of “falling forward.” Even if your product or idea fails at the insight stage, you are taking two steps forward by knowing what does not work in order to create something that does. This type of iterative thinking makes the idea stage, and ultimately the final concept, that much more effective.

And there you have it: the link between volleyball, falling forward, and market research! If you’d like to read more about how an iterative approach to research has helped our major razor brand client uncover crucial insights and make adjustments throughout the development process to ensure a successful product, check out the case study below.

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