Market research continues to be a booming industry, with global revenue of over $43.7 billion in 2018. There’s no understating just how important market research is for a business — especially when launching a new product. And yet, within the very walls of a company, there are valuable opportunities to elicit feedback and input: from a company’s own employees. Depending on the office culture, some employees are encouraged to be tight-lipped and simply do their job. But, the companies that truly win are the ones that encourage honest opinions and feedback from their team members.
Malbek is a cloud-based provider of contract lifecycle management software, helping individuals and companies to turn their contracts into living, breathing documents and avoid any costly oversights within the fine print. This is done through Malbek’s technology: it’s proprietary AI engine with powerful search and filter capabilities so that a team can always stay on top of all aspects of a contract whether in Sales, Legal, Finance, or Procurement. Their secret weapon for a truly great product? Empowering employees across departments to influence product design ideas. “That way, you’re able to glean truly great insights that you would miss otherwise,” noted Hemanth Puttaswamy, CEO of Malbek.
Ask Leadership to Encourage Participation
To make this effective, leadership must be at the forefront of the encouragement for employee input. Ideally, this should be done in an open-minded manner, where all ideas are supported. It may initially take a while to build trust and rapport with the employees so that they feel that their suggestions will be taken into consideration and that they won’t get blowback for critiquing the product as it stands. In the interim, it’s recommended to first get feedback anonymously. As Loren Margolis of Training & Leadership Success LLC shared with Forbes, “Employees are naturally nervous about the repercussions of sharing feedback with leadership, especially if it is negative. Use methods that guarantee anonymity through online surveys and focus groups conducted by an external vendor.”
Or, make participation in problem-solving or decision-making processes a habitual occurrence. Patte noted that “product and Technology leaders should encourage team members to speak up by providing an opportunity for team members to participate in solving a specific problem.”
Problem-Proof Your Product
The weeks leading up to product launch are all-hands-on-deck times, and employees know how imperative it is to have a product bug-free. Puttaswamy says this is the perfect time to elicit real feedback and suggestions – specifically, in the form of a ‘bug-test’ or a ‘test-fest.’ This consists of an all-hands review of a product from a potential customer’s perspective.
“Provide incentives for employees across departments to participate as an activity that brings team members together on a common purpose which is to make your solution solid and better for customers,” Puttaswamy advised. This is a win-win: not only are any previously overlooked problems identified for fixing, but employees feel that they contribute to the company’s larger mission.
Consider Company-Wide Hackathons
Hosting a hackathon is the perfect way to go even beyond eliciting feedback and solving problems, and instead, to get creative ideated solutions from a team. Puttaswamy advises that these should be hosted semi-frequently. “Provide short breaks to the regular schedule, and come up with hackathons where developers will build unique features in a short amount of time,” he explained. “They’ll do this by using their creativity and customer experience, and the teams will then configure or mock implement unique customer use cases.”
The power of a hackathon can be significant to a company’s success. Case in point: it was during Odeo’s hackathon that Twitter was born. Odeo had been a podcasting platform that was quickly de-throned when Apple launched podcasting. So, the team was tasked with coming up with creative solutions or new features. Employee Jack Dorsey worked with the Odeo co-founders to ideate Twitter.
Incorporating the entire team in analyzing the current product and ideating new features is a powerful way to both ensure that your product is the best it can be, and also prove to team members how much their opinions and insights are valued and needed.
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