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My Insight for Microsoft

© 2010 Maddock Douglas, Inc.

I never really thought that much about the process behind creating an insight, and I never really distinguished much between insights and ideas. I know there’s a difference, but I just didn’t dwell on it. Until yesterday. I attended a Maddock Douglas webinar, “Coming up with ideas is easy, it’s the insights that are tough,” and it gave me a newfound respect for a true insight.

So what is a true insight? Well, yesterday Brett from Maddock Douglas said that it’s “a penetrating consumer (or customer) truth that can help build business.”

There’s even a magic insight formula: “I [insert fact here] because [insert the reason why here], but [insert the friction here].”

It seems simple enough, but there’s actually an entire process used to develop insights. You need to first identify your target (be specific), and then make observations. The observations consist of personal experience, third party and primary research, focus groups, ethnography, and so on. The more perspectives the better. So, you observe and document the observations. After everything is documented, an insight workshop (who knew there was such a thing) is held and a group of people attempt to organize the observations into categories. Basically, you continue to group the observations into various themes and develop insight statements from there.

I hope my paraphrasing of an entire webinar isn’t too confusing.

After listening to the webinar, I really wanted to be part of an insight workshop.  Since I don’t foresee myself being in an insight workshop anytime soon, here is my attempt at developing an insight for Microsoft:

I realize that this process is not meant to be completed by just one person or on this small of a scale, but for the sake of the blog post please bear with me.

When I was in college I liked to use note cards to study, but there were a few things I observed that I didn't like (hence, the observation step):

• After awhile, my hand hurts from writing out information on note cards

• It takes a long time to write out note cards (which cuts into actual studying time)

• Handwriting note cards wastes paper and ink

• Note cards can only fit a certain amount of information, given their size

• I have to go buy more note cards if I run out of cards in the package but still have more information to cover

• It’s easy to misplace note cards

• When studying with note cards, I get used to the order I have them in and it makes studying ineffective because I remember the answers based on order rather than content

The observations are now documented. So, let’s place them into buckets/themes/categories:

• Content: “Note cards can only fit a certain amount of information, given their size.”

• Process: “After awhile, my hand hurts from writing out information on note cards,” “It takes a long time to write out note cards,”

• Organization: “It’s easy to misplace note cards,” “When studying with note cards, I get used to the order I have them in and it makes studying ineffective because I remember the answers based on order rather than content.”

• Supplies/resources: “Handwriting note cards wastes paper and ink,” “I have to go buy more note cards if I run out of cards in the package but still have more information to cover.”

Now all the observations are in their buckets, but I need to develop the insight statement. If I was doing this properly, there’d be more than one insight statement because there would’ve been tons of observations, categories, etc.

Out of everything above, here’s the insight statement I’ve created (don’t forget that it’s supposed to fit into the “I + reason why + friction” formula):

“I use note cards to study because they’re the best way for me to remember information for tests, but writing out all the information on note cards makes studying take longer."

In this case, the target can be students of all ages. And my proposed solution? Microsoft Office should include a “Note Card” program where you can type out all the information onto a note card on your computer (similar to how you’d type in Microsoft Word), you’re allowed an unlimited amount of note cards per subject matter, you can save each grouping of cards per subject matter, and when you want to study it has the ability to shuffle the cards at random to keep you on your toes.

My "Microsoft Note Card" program makes the overall studying process much more efficient: students spend less time studying, save money on supplies, aren’t limited by the size of a note card, and they can easily save and organize their note cards.

The best part? The initial thought for the “Microsoft Note Card” program occurred when I was in the library at Loyola looking around at all the other students using a PC to study. Imagine if right in between Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, you had the option to use Microsoft Note Card. Pretty sweet. Microsoft could start selling this new Office package to universities and educational institutions across the country. Teachers and students would both benefit.

Maybe I just think all of this is interesting and insightful because I’m a nerd, but the Maddock Douglas webinar yesterday was a very useful tool for anyone who wants to develop insights (for real products/services/solutions) and move them from their mind to the marketplace.

As for me, I can just see the newest Windows 7 commercial: Girl in her 20's sits in the library with her new PC with Windows 7 and says “I always wished for a way to study by typing out note cards on the computer and having it quiz me at random,” as she types out note cards, quizzes herself, and aces the next test. Then she says, “I’m a PC and Windows 7/Microsoft Note Card program was my idea.”