Sparking Innovation Through Research

December 13, 2023

The most transformative products don’t materialize out of thin air. Yes, sometimes brilliance strikes in a late-night lightbulb moment. But more often than not, products with the highest impact (and the greatest demand) are developed after extensive research. By observing and analyzing human behaviors, we can shine a light on unmet needs and fuel innovation.

Gain Empathy Through Observation

Ethnographic research allows you to observe consumers using products and services in their natural environments. Watching people interact, move, and behave as they do every day provides an invaluable fly-on-the-wall insight into their frustrations and workarounds. 

Look for innovative solutions that will improve everyday lives.

Unlike focus groups or surveys, this method involves seeing needs and pain points play out in real time. People may say they act a certain way in theory but then do something entirely different in practice. Eliminating the pressure of a controlled environment allows subtle insights, that may have been missed in artificial research settings to become obvious and actionable.

Ethnographic research also reveals the spaces where products would make an immediate difference in consumers’ lives. Innovating specifically to ease everyday frustrations provides a straight path to bring value to users. Observing workarounds to product limitations doesn’t just open the door for innovation, but also validates the demand for your product.

For example, when collaborating with U.S. Foods, Beyond Design performed qualitative research on cutlery dispensers. We engaged end users to understand their experiences and observed their interactions with the product in the real world. This exploration unveiled crucial insights into how people use plastic cutlery and their requirements for a dedicated distribution system. A key discovery emphasized sanitation, inspiring a touchless design. The final result was the SimPull Cutlery Dispenser, for US Food, Inc.

Connect Business Perspectives

Stakeholder interviews leverage diverse expertise within your company. These conversations reveal larger business needs beyond just the consumer experience. 

Industry leaders are an invaluable resource in solving problems across departments and roles.

Tapping into diverse expertise across all roles and disciplines highlights problems and possibilities that single-perspective research would miss. Gaining insight from leaders who constantly encounter and mull over the problem you are trying to solve generates innovation benefiting every aspect of your business. This broad, ecosystem view allows innovation to emerge in unexpected corners.

Improving Iterations Through Feedback

Innovation thrives on feedback. Where do people still stumble? What new behaviors emerge? Ongoing user testing validates your solution and allows continued improvement through iteration. 

Experimenting with bottle iterations to receive user feedback.

Genuine reactions to products are crucial in developing an intuitive and user-friendly design. What may seem like small tweaks can greatly improve your product’s appeal. 

While working on new bottle designs for 180 Innovations, we saw the benefits of iterative feedback. Visiting stores and sharing design concepts allowed us to gather direct insights from end users. This input helped us rapidly refine the designs to match evolving consumer needs and maximize product innovations.

Map the Competitive Landscape

While consumer insights are critical, it’s also important to complement research with a macro lens on the market as a whole. Research positions your brand strategically and unveils the gaps competitors have left, where unmet user needs reside

Pinpointing your unique place in the market ensures your innovation won’t go unnoticed.

A bird’s-eye view ensures you design for where the market’s headed, not just where it’s been. You can get ahead of needs coming over the horizon with disruptive thinking.

At Beyond Design, we know that effective innovation requires insights at every level, from niche everyday people to the comprehensive market. Our qualitative research illuminates hidden needs, gaps, openings, and trends. We work with you to inspire strategic innovations that maximize adoption and value.

Let us help you find your next big idea. Email us at to transform your inspiration into action. 

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