How much did that insight cost?

I have a very deep respect for IDEO and what they do but after a recent article in the Business Weekly called the Power of Design, I have to say that much of the research and information which they packed in there have shown evidence of a big issue which so many companies are having at the moment and that is a huge investment in quite frankly, crap information. Insights are supposed to be found after much data crunching, idea sharing and inside information, all of the super insightful information IDEO have found for this piece could probably be written on the back of a cigarette packet. Take this excerpt for example. 

“IDEO’s sociologists explained that patients hated Kaiser’s examination rooms because they often had to wait alone for up to 20 minutes half-naked, with nothing to do, surrounded by threatening needles. IDEO and Kaiser concluded that the patient experience can be awful even when people leave treated and cured”

Well strike me down, customers unhappy with the experience that they had in a doctor’s surgery? Now that is new and novel if ever I saw it. The article continues with very similar examples, all of which just lack a bit of punch, some substance and some of that pizzazz which we have become accustomed to with IDEO. 

The insightful Steve Portugal had this to say about the piece, a far more scathing assessment than I will give but that is not to say that I am not in agreement with his words. 

“I had hoped that the story was just massively simplified by Nussbaum for the audience. What was most disturbing for me was the fact that Bruce Nussbaum, who hangs around the IDSA endlessly, writes about design regularly, knows everyone in the business, etc. etc. would still let IDEO write the story for him so egregiously. There’s no journalism in the man, he’s simply a PR pass-through. By the end of the article, when he mentions that there are in fact other firms who (gasp) do some of the same work, he spins it so you think that IDEO invented everything described, that other firms started copying this type of thing in order to compete with IDEO. So the props to other practitioners are very weak ones. The thing is, there will be another article or TV show just like this about IDEO in another 6 months. My impression is that this type of PR helps IDEO enormously, but it helps the rest of us significantly as well”

My mission here is not to just dig out the guys at IDEO but to alert businesses to the investment versus findings issue which so many have when it comes to gaining those magical ‘insights’. The word is overused in fact, so much so that many businesses are pumping cash into research which is yielding very little, and the rate of cost per ‘insight’ is likely to be incredibly high. Businesses must hold researchers to account far more than they currently are.