While on an implementing design course yesterday, much discussion centred around the efficacy or otherwise of focus groups.

Focus groups are something that large organisations often deploy, but the structure and deployment hamstrings the effectiveness of the group.  A focus group needs to be seen as objective and open to explore, criticise and suggest. Often focus groups end up being yes-people for the organisation setting them up.

Focus groups are only part of the equation – creating personas is another useful and more neutral tool but in terms of focus groups my advice would be;

  • Find an outside facilitator/sponsor to help set it up – increases members perception of objectivity/neutrality
  • Think about the demographics of your group – make it diverse
  • Give them the space to free range – innovation happens best when it is unconstrained
  • As a bit of a counter to the above, have a good understanding between the business and the sponsor in terms of broad guiding principles
  • Encourage the group to get out – to look at the competitors and to look at other non-related industries
Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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