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Field Studies for Creating Successful Products

#Innovation #Behavioral #observation

The field study is an academic method designed to supplement academic training in “knowledge acquisition”-type courses offered in university education. Noting the differences between “knowing” and “doing,” the method employed in this field study is through observation rather than through discussion. This research method is used in cultural anthropology, sociology, and psychology, and it relies mostly on note-taking instead of spoken language while observing the characteristics and daily behavior—that is, the “culture”—of a certain ethnic or other group. This method is no longer limited to an attempt to understand the culture of a specific community or tribe, but has also been employed on the business scene, as it involves active engagements designed to deepen the understanding of people living their regular daily lives.

For example, innovative companies such as Apple and Google carefully observe consumer behavior, and leading companies at home and abroad, including IDEO and the Osaka Gas Research Institute of Behavior Observation, among others, perform thorough observations of consumer behavior. This enables the discovery of needs that even users themselves are unable to put into words. Rather than focusing on statistical questionnaire-based surveys and quantitative analyses, training is now underway at advanced business schools to help students polish their “observational abilities” in the field (i.e., on site). The day is approaching when such field work will also be established as an optimal educational method within the case method.