Consumer Psychology

Will Your Digital Innovation Fly? Say Hello to The Shermer Test

New digital service, campaign or product? Will it fly?

Technology has thrown the doors to digital innovation wide open; so many value propositions are technically possible; but which ones will work?  This is the question we tackled today on stage today with the Economist Intelligence Unit (who have just produced a new research report – Supply on Demand: Changing Patterns in Consumption and Delivery Models – at #Subscribed in London, the goto event for Subscription Based Businesses run by Zuora.

Of course, you can go back to the Innovator’s Bible and the perennial Critical Success Factors for innovation from Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations:

  • Relative Advantage – We’re perceived as better than the competition (we offer more (for less))
  • Compatibility – We’re  compatible with the way people already do things
  • Simplicity – We simplify people’s lives
  • Trialability – People can experience it for themselves us with no cost/commitment
  • Observability – People can see others adopting our innovation

Answer yes to all five, then your innovation is likely to fly: Rogers’ analysis shows that these five critical success factors account for up to 87% of variability in innovation success. But they offer a rather ‘rational’ view of  value maximising audiences, users or customers – when people are emotional creatures too.  For a more emotional – and simpler – test for your innovation, you can turn to what I call the ‘The Shermer Test”.

Psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer (Wikipedia) who writes for Scientific American has been researching innovations for decades (everything from new religious movements, to cults, conspiracy theories and food trends). His speciality is understanding why people believe and adopt things that are weird from a rational perspectives, but can make total sense from an emotional sense.  And through a meta-analysis of innovations, he’s identified three critical success factors to make your innovation emotionally irrestistable.

  1. Instant Gratification – offer a world suffering from collective ADHD the benefit NOW (for example, cults will often ‘Love Bomb’ new recruits with attention, gratitude and praise when joining).
  2. Simplification – simplify issues and lives (think George Bush style ethics – we’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys – it’s a simple as that
  3. Credo Consolans – (I think therefore I need to hope) since the human mind can perceive its own insignificance and oh-so-brief existence, people need to deal with perpetual existential angst; promising them significance and (if you can) some kind of immortality (like being part of something bigger than them) is the ultimate value proposition…

The Shermer Test is simple and powerful.  Do you pass?


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