Translating Research Insights into Innovation

After perusing , I was wondering about the last part of the document: Translating Insight into Innovation . Basically, the document presents how Intel use ethnographic research to drive technology innovation. Of course, the emphasis is more on the field studies and 2 applications that emerges from them. To me, I feel like there is a huge gap between the very rich and well-documented ethnographic studies (Genevieve Bell's research for instance) and the two applications presented here (The China Home Learning PC and Intel’s iCafé platform). Well of course:

  • Intel won't enter too much into some details about how they translate those insights into innovation because it is a strategic added value.
  • I haven't tested those applications so I should shut my mouth
  • I won't do better myself

However I do feel like it's a reality: it's tremendously difficult to turn research insights (about user's culture, context, psychology, needs, beliefs...) into a product. Anyway, it's not always the case that such research HAS TO BE turned into a product/application/product, I am a bit extreme here. The company's business process may include all this bunch of facts/ideas into something less formal as Bell says on here homepage: The goal of ethnographic research at Intel is to bring the human component into discussions about technology. Intel gains a lot of value from ethnographic studies. "It's not good enough to just keep producing technology with no notion of whether it's going to be useful to consumers. We need as many tools and as many ways of getting at who these people are as we can get, and ethnography is a powerful way of doing it," (...) Part of the challenge is to try and find those opportunity spaces, so you need to be out in the field a lot, doing research. And you need time back at Intel to try and make sense of what you've seen. (...) Ethnographic research can inform business decision-making at Intel with the rich textures of real-life experiences. It balances the traditional business model by embracing the human side of using technology and the Internet in everyday life.

Besides, the most important thing is that such research AT LEAST gives a human touch to some technological thinkers who tend to forget that the users are human and... ok let's re-read Norman's Psychology of Everyday Things

Finally, another last thing: transforming research/R&D/marketing/... into "something" seem to be very discussed lately at a broader level (I mean not the company level but instead at the country level). Two books (in France and in Switzerland as I described here) dealt with that issue at the country level; accounting that France/Switzerland have a powerful R&D but it often failed at turning this into concrete outcome/experiences/products/success stories.

mmh I think this post just express my avidity to know more about how companies/institutions turn research results into innovations...

Add-on: reading Looking Across the Atlantic: Using Ethnographic Methods to Make Sense of Europe, there are some information I could gather about this topic:

This fieldwork was prompted by an internal request from an Intel product group to determine the characteristics of chome life in Western Europe relevant to the design of consumer computing products and servicesc(...) People and Practices Research has been charged with the task of understanding people and their daily practices with an eye to finding new users and new uses for technology. (...) We attempt to translate insights about peoples’ behavior into product concepts, technology innovations, and strategic long-range planning [are ethnographers taking part of the esign process? -nick] Knowing these stories, interests, and patterns makes it possible to design and develop products and services that fit (intuitively) into people’s lives.

And all of this is an hard job:

But in truth, the fieldwork was the easy part; making sense of all this material and conveying those insights back to product groups and other audiences within Intel was a much bigger challenge.