I was in Orange County recently, and I had been traveling for weeks in a row. I was in the zone with my facilitation and consulting work, focused and productive, yet I had been to so many hotels in so many weeks that they began to blur as I transitioned from one project to another. Then I saw something that pulled me back into the uniqueness of the moment: a duck in a swimming pool…with no one else around.
Great care had been taken at this lovely hotel to create a relaxing, inviting outdoor space where people could seek rejuvenation in the perfectly-maintained pool or in one of the cabanas or chairs meticulously placed along the edges of the sky blue water. And yet here the only visitor was a duck—presumably with better prospects in ponds nearby with underbrush to provide cover and soil rather than cement, in which to build a nest. This lone duck, heading for the ladder looked so out of place.
It made me wonder why the intended audience never showed up and why the unexpected did. As product developers and marketers, a lot of thought goes into this aspect, of course. Yet, I wonder if we get in the narrowly focused zone too often and limit our possibilities for success by staying with slices of the population we already know well or have tried to please with our offerings in the past. As a market researcher, it seems as though every year the specifications for who we recruit to learn from and talk to become narrower and narrower, squeezing out other possibilities for learning and understanding. It might be refreshing to learn from the opposite or adjacent point of view in our research—the grandparents rather than the parents of targeted children, the male head of household rather than the primary grocery shopper. It might feel surprisingly cool when we dip a toe into a new pool of knowledge, but with summer around the corner, maybe we are ready for a new perspective.