Add Theatrics to Your Innovation Toolbox
Minimizing the cost while maximizing the return on investment in customer research is critical to an organization's innovation efforts. The HBR article "When a Prototype Isn’t Enough, Use Theatrical Tricks to Sell Your Idea," offers some great examples of doing some powerful testing at low cost, leveraging "stagecraft."
While the title is a bit misleading (it's about testing ideas more than selling them), the creative ways that organizations have used theatrical production approaches to deeply understand the way customers will react to their ideas is inspiring.
This isn't about "faking out" your customers with stage tricks or sleight-of-hand. It's about immersing them in the reality of your product, without actually making the product (nor incurring the costs of doing so). It gives you something as close to field-testing observational data as you can get, without actually putting a real product int he field.
And I must say, in my experience, it can be fun to do, too. And fun never hurts innovation.