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What Gembas Can Do for Your New Product Development Process

Never heard of Gembas? If you are responsible for New Product Development – please read on! This term refers to a technique for understanding how work is getting done (in order to identify ways to improve the process). Today we use the Gemba technique as a starting point in the New Product Development process.

To conduct a Gemba means to go observe people doing some task, usually involving using a product or service, real-time, in its “native habitat”.   Exploring what the consumer is actually doing and what work-arounds the consumer is creating to get something done in various situations helps us find the “pain points” or “need gaps” that a new product might address.  

  1. It’s very interactive. Gembas are quite different from ethnographies or typical in depth interviews.  The Gemba interviewer is never an invisible bystander.  The interviewer probes to understand the “why” behind what the consumer is doing –  to engage her deeply about the task, product or service.  
  2. Team members conduct the Gembas – not only a researcher. The Business Team members are trained in how to conduct a Gemba and how to record the results – so you don’t need to use a Qualitative Researcher to do them all, and it engages the Team closely with the consumers.
  3. The output is highly structured. The format for conducting and recording the experience of each Gemba visit is organized in order to capture and systematize all the relevant knowledge, across many Gemba interviews. 
  4. There’s a clear “next step” to quantify Need Gaps. The results of a Gemba study are fed into the Quality Function Deployment (QFD) process for new product development.  Gemba is still a useful process even when resources won’t support an extensive QFD process, because it clearly identifies pain points and need gaps.  

Interested in learning more about Gembas and how this approach can add depth and richness to your early stages of new product development? Contact me today at or (805) 497-9090.

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One Response to What Gembas Can Do for Your New Product Development Process

  1. […] from my cha cha class, it’s actually a description of the three-step process used to implement a Gemba. A Gemba is an innovative market research tool used at the start of the new product development […]

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