SUNNYVALE, Calif.--A key part of any stop on the year-long Drive for Innovation was interacting with engineers either examining our Chevy Volt or driving it around.
Everyone had a design suggestion.
Analog Devices took it to the next level, in the Fall of 2011, by hosting an outdoor reception during which employees put Sticky-note design suggestions all over the car.
That sparked an idea: How would our engineering audience design an EV for the future?
Serendipitously, Mark Skillings, a former longtime marketing executive with ADI, suggested over dinner that we focus-group it.
ADI, as it turns out, once used a decision-making, consensus-building process called the KJ Method, after its inventor, Jiro Kawakita. Skillings, now founder and president of the TMC Group, swore by it, and noted that his product development teams used the K-J and other voice-of-the-customer (VOC) techniques in the new product development process.
So we convened a focus group of eight engineers here earlier this year (one-way glass and the whole shootin' match), which Skillings led deftly.
In the space of two hours, we'd identified and built consensus around the right ways to focus next-generation vehicle design.
Here's what happened:
We started by trying to bound the problem:
“What are the factors limiting the acceptance of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in the US?”
The process, in which there are no wrong or right answers, allows the participant to write any number of answers to the question and place them on a whiteboard. Our eight lucky engineers one by one and multiple times jotted down thoughts and stuck them, more or less randomly, on the board.
They wrote several dozen answers, such as:
- Range low
- Price high
- Repair cost
- Charger accessible
Then, we asked our engineers to group the stickies silently in any manner that they believe two or more go together. (Silence is the key, since it allows everyone to consider how they would group them without being badgered). Then a round of conversation was followed by some additional labelling--all led by the engineers.