Thanks Mom: Insight Drives Innovation

Monday, 22 April 2013 06:30
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As marketers, it's always a good idea to remind ourselves that we don't know what consumers want and need better than they do. Further, it's useful to recall that insight is typically at the heart of innovation. It took a phone call with my 85 year old mother the other week to reinforce these messages.

My elderly mother, Mildred Fruhling doesn't fit the image of congenial, chocolate-chip baking mom. She is as sharp and flinty as they come. As a retiree and a widow, my mother seeks purpose and to find others with whom she can explore shared interests. Many of her peers are seeking this as well, given that their kids are long gone and very often, a spouse has passed away. However, Mildred is not content to simply sit around and chat amiably, and share pictures of her grandchildren (not that there's anything wrong with that). She's always had passion for the hot button issues that impact her and her peer group, such as managing the increasing cost of prescription drugs, health care reform, and healthy aging through proper nutrition, and has been an activist on these matters, working with local and national government agencies.

She has lamented to me that it can be difficult for elderly women (in particular) to find others who share intellectual interests and who wish to remain vital and actively involved in issues and topics that matter to them. While occasionally successful, she can't reliably find these people and outlets through visits to her local Senior Center alone. Yet, she is quite active on the internet and regularly researches topics of interest to her, and corresponds using email very regularly. So, this provides her with a potentially viable vehicle for outreach.

Her motivation is to continue to have purpose and socialization. So, could this need-gap be the inspiration for (for lack of a better term) online vehicle for matching up individuals or groups of seniors with common interests. I think there's something to this. Many seniors are computer literate. With access to internet and video conferencing, there is no reason why this couldn't work. It would need to be made safe/secure to protect the participants (it's a shame that this even needs to be brought up as a consideration, but it does). It most likely doesn't fit the paradigm and business model, but I'd bet there's a rich vein to mine here. This isn't very different in spirit than YourEncore or "SCORE" (Service Core of Retired Executive), although it wouldn't represent a consultative or business setting.

In closing, it is helpful to remind ourselves that insight is the basis for hypothesis, and that it is often necessary to get out from behind our desk in order to glean (valuable) insights that can drive innovation. So, have you spoken with your mother lately?

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