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Deep consumer understanding helps electrolux innovate

December 7, 2006

The latest issue of the McKinsey Quarterly (registration required) has a great interview with the Hans Staberg the CEO of Electrolux, the home appliance maker.

Electrolux is a company that has gone through some financial struggles in the past, but is now starting to turn itself around and is enjoying life in the “middle”; between the low-priced Chinese manufacturers and the premium appliance brands.

The journal asked Staberg an insightful final question.

What advice would you give a company stuck in the middle on how to jump-start innovation?

“Start with consumers and understand what their latent needs are and what their problems they experience. That doesn’t mean you ask them, “What are their latent needs?” or “What problems do you experience?” Then you will not get the answers. You need to observe and find out by different means and then put the puzzle together yourself to discover what people really want to have….

There are a whole series of techniques and approaches for doing that: video-taping consumers and asking them the right kinds of questions; observing consumers; reading between the lines of what they are really saying; observing them for what they are doing and not what they are saying.”

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