Innovation by Immersion [Series 3/5]

 Experience is the Message

People have experiences about product, products don’t have experiences.  – Marcelo Marer, Chief Creative Director, Intel Media

What sells well in the U.S. many not be a benefit to anyone elsewhere. If you sell globally, it’s critical to design products for the new markets you plan to enter. Doing so requires research and an honest/thorough analysis of the information you have collected.

User Stories and User Personas

In the previous blog, the product teams hypothesized their customers and prospects need to collaborate – on demand, from anywhere – with their partners and other growers, in order to be more productive and to reduce risk.

But the product teams didn’t know for sure if this was true for all of the users. This company sells their farm equipment product globally, including into emerging-markets in China and Africa. The needs of these emerging-markets growers was not well defined.

The product teams needed to create personas for each of the growers in each market, to sort out the unique needs of  the many complex roles and to create robust user stories to build innovative products. They had to visit the growers personally.

Day in the Life of a Grower

Multiple teams were sent to live with growers at their farms for three weeks. The task – watch and record (written and video) what the growers did every day.  The goal – to  determine what was important to each of the visited growers and build stories and product plans.

The teams found that if they asked questions on “what did you find difficult” the answer was very different from what the video showed. And if asked “what did you like” it was often difficult for the grower to articulate this. Best practice hint: when in the field/interviewing,  use multiple data capturing methods.  This helps business teams as they review and analyze the research later. It can clearly indicate what needs clarification or additional study, reducing the risk of getting it wrong.


Teams learned that growers in both emerging and developed economies were familiar with and used mobile technology. They also learned that wireless technologies on a farm and in farm equipment had to withstand harsh conditions. This wasn’t surprising to the team, but the first insights were.

The product teams used what they now know and produced MVP products,  getting better as they learned to create additional value. Having feet on the street, as these teams did, can clarify what is uniquely important to global customers.

This team may not say they are Agile practioners, but they are.


Tee’d up> An Hypothesis is Really a Prototype

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  1. New PM Articles for the Week of October 15 – 21 | The Practicing IT Project Manager - October 22, 2012

    […] Karol McCloskey tells of a product design team that went off to live with their prospective customers for three weeks, to determine what was important to them. […]

  2. The PM Vision Takeaways from PDMA Summit | The PM Vision - October 22, 2012

    […] The talks at the Summit consumed most of a full day, and many interesting stories were told, but I wanted to highlight just a couple that jumped out at me.  I hope you get something from reading them.  For more from the Summit, please check out the post my colleague Karol McCloskey previously wrote on AgileScout. […]

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