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March 08, 2006

Consumer Idealized Design: Involving Consumers in The Product Development Process

by Susan Ciccantelli and Jason Magidson

A product or service is designed effectively if it provides consumers with what they want, rather than merely removing what they do not want. But determining what consumers need or will want is an effort that does not often meet with success. In fact, suppliers' beliefs about consumers' wants have led to more product failures than successes. The main reason for this is not hard to understand: Consumers' needs and desires are elusive because consumers themselves generally have not consciously formulated what they are or how to fulfill them.

Even when consumers are aware of what they want and are willing to reveal it, their wants are likely to be conditioned by what is available. And when the product or service available is basically unsatisfying to them, they are unlikely to reveal startling new desires or concepts. At best, the typical ways in which
consumers are involved in product design-focus groups, surveys and questionnaires-tend to elicit mostly information about what they do not want, rather than startling new insights about what they really want or need. This is due in part to the fact that people often attempt to provide answers that they think the inquirer wants, rather than probe for their own preferences.

So the search continues, and product developers continue to seek ways to help consumers (1) become more aware of what they need or want, and (2) reveal these wants as accurately as possible. One such way, developed by Russell L. Ackoff, is a process called Consumer Idealized Design (Consumer Design).

To read this article, click on the link: Consumer Idealized Design: Involving Consumers in The Product Development Process.

Posted by ACASA on March 8, 2006 at 01:14 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink


I have been enjoying the beautifully crafted fable of Paul Coelho titled "The Alchemist." A line from it seems apropos here: "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." Idealized designing creates opportunities for dreaming in groups. This makes it a type of orgy, an orgy of imagination. The atmosphere in the rooms where people are designing can become charged, even boisterous. This is because asking the "why" question is contagious and fun. "Design is the hero's endeavor." I believe West Churchman said that. Cheers! Susan

Posted by: Susan Ciccantelli at Mar 15, 2006 10:14:15 AM

Steve, thanks for your comment. Star Trek is a great show in many respects, including the use of imagination. The mobile phone was actually conceptualized in 1951 at Bell Labs with the involvement of Russell Ackoff, so perhaps the Star Trek folks did some good research!! One lesson, in my experience, is the power of creating organizational cultures where people use their imaginations, especially in groups. It doesn't have to be idealized design, but I've found it to be really powerful in this respect. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, "Imagination is the beginning of creation. We imagine what we desire, we will what we imagine, and at last we create what we will." Regards, Jason

Posted by: Jason Magidson at Mar 15, 2006 9:06:10 AM

Has any one watched the "How William Shatner Changed the World" on History Channel? An interesting concept that many technology developments (cell phones, personal computers, MRI's) were brought into being by folks who were influenced by Star Trek and the concepts that the writers "made up" but ended up getting engineers and doctors thinking about possibilities. I think there are some lessons in the show for Idealized Design, though the show does not end up directly stating that concept.

Steve Prevette
Pasco WA

Posted by: Steve Prevette at Mar 14, 2006 7:25:02 PM

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