Photo safari

Photo safari

What are photo safaris?

It is often useful to see a service or product through the eyes of someone else. This can change perspectives and open up for new ideas. Photo safari is about “borrowing” the eyes of the users/customers.

How to use photo safari for innovation purposes?

There are two different approaches to photo safaris: You can – as manager, employee or consultant to the tourism enterprise – take photographs. Or you can let the customers take the photographs for you.

In both cases it is important to select a specific problem area, where you feel there is a need for some kind of turnaround. The site must have physical features. For example a playground in connection with a holiday center of camping site. A yacht harbour facility. A ferry that brings holiday makers to and from an island. A café or restaurant. The signboards and other written materials in the public space etc.

Make as narrow description of the problem as possible. For example, it may be a problem that people come up to the counter to ask a question instead of studying the signboards or that travelers are complaining about the ferry comfort, or that the tour sailors stay for only very short period in the yacht harbour before leaving again etc.

Take a series of photographs with the eyes of the customer. You can, for example, try to make photographs from the height of a 6-years old child. Take many photographs, select many situations in order to illustrate the full use of a particular site. Consider taking photographs at different times of the day, the week, the year.

If some of your customers have agreed to take photographs, instruct them to also take as many as possible. Make it clear what you want to improve and develop your business. Cameras can register events and facilities that could be changed and become more convenient or appealing, but users can also make photographs of things that they appreciate and enjoy.

If you want, for example, to improve the bathroom and washing facilities at a camping site, ask the customers to take photographs during their use of the facilities (possibly beyond the level of normal discretion). A disabled user might, for example, be able to illustrate where she lacks assistive tools. Consider also to work with children or people who are not normal guests in the facilities.

Photo safaris in the innovation process

Print the pictures in A4 format and display them in a room. You can ask the customers to explain each of their pictures either individually or in a focus group session. You will have extra information and inspiration during focus group interviews, because the members of the group are inspiring each other. Put post-its beneath all pictures in order to capture the messages for later treatments. After the session organize the material in an electronic portfolio-file.

The results of photo safari can be discussed further at staff or management meetings, where ideas for improvements and their feasibility are on the agenda.

It is also of importance prior to and as part of meetings with architects and interior decorators, to consider the messages that users have provided the organization with during photo safaris. The architects and decorators may even, as part of their process, choose to make their own photo safaris.

Make the best of photo safaris

  1. Keep a sense of humour – this is great fun!
  2. Do not use the photographs for further marketing and other purposes
  3. Involve those around you, as far as possible, when you take the photographs. Explain why you are doing it
  4. Give copies of the photographs to the customer if they want them
  5. Let as many people as possible comment on and learn from the photographs: customers, staff, business colleagues, suppliers, architects, etc.
  6. File the material in your own innovation folder
  7. Capture every idea, but be critical in the assessment process
  8. Review your list of problems

Literature and links

Brown, T.(2009) – Change by design. – New York: Harper Business

Bruce Nussbaum (2004) – The power of design – Businessweek Online