Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Live from Front End of Innovation 2012: A.K. Pradeep on Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious

"Consumers may not be able to tell you what they like, but they know it when they see it." -- A.K. Pradeep

This was a fascinating talk about the possibilities of applying neuroscience to sales, product lifestyle, and innovation in the future.  He proposes that neuroscience will be able to "innovate innovation," and leaves us with the hope that the field will catch up to, and exceed, his vision.

At the root of neural measurement, neuroscientists are assessing three things second by second:

-Attention[*4]
-Emotion[*5]
-Memory Retention[*6]

For innovation to be effective, it must command attention, elicit an emotional response, and be memorable [*1].  We can measure the brain to assess whether solutions elicit responses in attention, emotion, and memory retention, in order to ascertain which ones are effective.  By measuring the brain second-by-second, it may be possible to determine the most salient features of the solution.  Likewise, it may be possible to assess the consumer's response to all of the steps of a product's development process [*2]  in order to differentiate between the innovations whose seeds will grow and bloom successfully and the "innovations" that contain nothing but fertilizer.

Another important possibility is being able to adjust prototypes dynamically in synchronization with neural responses to the product.  This goes way beyond the opportunities of surveys and focus groups![*3]

Dr. Pradeep also talked about how companies create signature experiences.  There are iconic aspects of experiences that have a subtle profundity that capture the attention and stick in one's memory[*1].  In the future, neuroscience may be able to guide businesses toward creating that sticky signature that could turn innovation, product creation, and even product consumption, into a more meaningful experience.

Orin's Asides
(As background to these asides, Orin's undergraduate work was in neuroscience, and his doctoral work was in organizational behavior and positive psychology.)
*1. For some complementary perspectives on this topic, read Demand by Adrian Slywotzky
*2. A look at the peer-reviewed research shows that much of this work is still in its infancy, and there are many possible interpretations of the test results.  Yet, the techniques and analyses are improving at an exponential rate [at least!], and neuroscience may not be that far from being able to do this more concretely.)
*3. Yet, surveys and focus groups will remain valuable for getting specific questions answered, and also for playing ideas off of each other at a higher-order level of cognition.  Neuroscience may soon be able to understand what is happening at the basic levels of attention, memory, and emotion, but this is a long way from being able to measure higher-order cognitive constructs in the brain.
*4. For more on this, see research by Nancy Kanwisher and Michael I. Posner, among others.  If you are interested in more technical information, see Michael I. Posner's (ed.) book.
*5. For more on this, see research by Antonio Damasio at the Brain and Creativity Center, among others.
*6. For more on this, see research by Michael Kahana, Marc Howard, and Daniel Schacter, among others.



Orin C. Davis is the first person to earn a doctorate in positive psychology.  His research focuses on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring, and it spans both the workplace and daily life.  He is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and a freelance consultant who helps companies maximize their human capital and become better places to work.

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