Posts tagged “brainstorming”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Why You’re Doing Customer Research All Wrong [Inc.] – It comes as no surprise that many innovative ideas hit the cutting room floor before ever seeing the light of day in consumer testing. The author suggests that too many great ideas don’t get chosen for testing and this is where the problem lies. While I agree that this is a grave problem for customer research, it’s not nearly as reprehensible as the omission of consumers from ideation sessions, and the failure to converge in the ideation process. In fact, I’d argue that the problem could be averted with two steps upstream in this process. First, start with the end in mind when planning a brainstorming session and invite customers and executives to help generate stakeholder-inspired ideas. Secondly, make sure those ideas get clustered and prioritized before anyone leaves the room. Ideation should include both divergent and convergent thinking! This results in more collaborative value-added ideas and less ‘intuitive’ choices about which ones merit further testing.

Affinnova studied 100 testing campaigns that its clients had done in the past. Typically the testing process went like this: A company came up with a long list of potential ideas to test, whittled it down using mostly executives’ intuition, and then tested the much shorter list of ideas. Affinnova, on the other hand, took the initial brainstorming list and tested everything on it, presenting the ideas in groups and asking participants to select their favorites.

Looking To Hire And Keep Great Innovators? Focus On The 3 Rs [Co.Design] – When companies look inward in a quest for amping up their innovation capabilities, they undoubtedly see the potential of their human resources. The three Rs of getting and keeping innovative employees are Recruiting, Retraining and Rewarding. Given the very premise of the article a fourth R, Reflection, seems mighty important. While the ROI (yikes, another R word!) of a strategic debrief may be hard to justify in some cases, the cost of ignoring valuable lessons learned from experience can be catastrophic. Consider how many times companies learn the same lessons over and over again. It’s Ridiculous. Besides, a healthy organization that engages its employees in regular reflection is likely to keep those folks feeling engaged, valued and loyal, thereby reducing the need to look outside for more innovators.

Innovation relies on people more than other processes. This reliance on employees, management, and executives in an organization requires that the “right” people are attracted, and then given the appropriate tools and techniques for a sustained innovation success. Their passions and capabilities also must be ensured to align with the needs and expectations of the firm.

Building Self-Control, the American Way [New York Times] – Although this article is focused on parenting strategies for cultivating self-discipline, I think the lessons can be applied to nurturing innovative thinkers. This article talks about the importance of play in allowing children to practice and develop skills like self-control, self-esteem and social interaction. Companies who rely on their people to continually generate creative ideas should explore opportunities for productive play experiences that challenge and nurture their employees’ essential abilities to manage themselves through intrinsic motivation.

Fortunately for American parents, psychologists find that children can learn self-control without externally imposed pressure. Behavior is powerfully shaped not only by parents or teachers but also by children themselves. The key is to harness the child’s own drives for play, social interaction and other rewards. Enjoyable activities elicit dopamine release to enhance learning, while reducing the secretion of stress hormones, which can impede learning and increase anxiety, sometimes for years.


With a name like Murder, it’s got to be good…

Business strategist Nilofer Merchant presented her branded “MurderBoarding” process at the IxDA SF monthly meeting last night.

While brainstorming generates lots of ideas, you still have to discern the right choices to win. AND you have to get a group of people to believe that IT is the right solution.

The opposite of whiteboarding, the MurderBoarding™ decision process ensures teams creatively generate many potential options before “killing off” options one-by-one until there is single best solution for a specific organization and situation.

Merchant is certainly right that companies often have as much difficulty dealing with the aftermath of idea generation – What do we do now? – as the divergent exploration itself. There’s no question that for many organizations, moving forward from idea generation in a grounded way is a challenge, and it’s great that Merchant has structured a process for establishing decision-making criteria and prioritizing ideas for development. We’ve had to create this type of process too, and have increasingly been working with our clients from research through ideation to evaluating and prioritizing ideation results through the lens of what we’ve helped them learn about their customers.

Merchant’s book, The New How, just came out a month ago, and it’s quite possible that her presentation was intended to serve as a teaser for the book, rather than a standalone piece, but at the conclusion of the talk I felt like I was still waiting for it to start – for me, there was a bit of the “no there, there” feeling to it.

When a process comes along with a provocative new name like MurderBoarding, it can be both affirming and disappointing to find out it’s more or less in line with what you’ve already been doing.

It’s a bit like looking at the ingredients list on your sports drink and realizing that “Electrolytes” are just salt.

If you’d like to know more about our approach to generating ideas (if not murdering them), check out Steve’s BayCHI presentation, Well We Did All This Research…now what?, or catch it live at the Interaction10 conference next month in Savannah.

Mom and Pop as a target for innovation

Earlier this week I met with some young entrepreneurs who are trying to apply their design school education to solve a social/business/design problem. They are interested in ways to help “mom and pop” (i.e., small, independent) businesses in a specific category remain viable. They’ve done a bit of research and ideation, but were feeling stuck, so they asked me to meet them and critique what they had done so far.

The timing was interesting, because I had just writen about my Mom and Pop failure experience (ironically, thinking about this upcoming meeting the whole time). Their response to my story was to comment on the on-demand nature of our culture that seems to be escalating; that’s fair enough, I was certainly looking for my paint right then; we’ve been trained that it’s indeed possible, and we do want that.

There’s a lot of conventional political perspective on why one should shop locally and small, and they are hoping to get beyond that, to motivate people not for moral reasons but to create real benefit. (Virginia Postrel challenges at least one of the shoulds in her comment here.)

We brainstormed for a couple of hours, building up some possible scenarios, solutions, and I think most importantly for them, the research they should do next if they really want to understand their problem in an actionable fashion.

It’s all about triangulation; trying to get enough different perspectives on the situation, to bring differences out as contrasts, and to do that you need to look at different stuff. They had been mostly talking to the types of proprietors they wanted to help, and they had a really nice segmentation that came out of that. But they hadn’t looked at why customers shopped at those smaller stores. Or why customers didn’t shop at those smaller stores. What do people like about mom-and-pops? What do they like about chains? Both in the category they are looking at, but also other ones?

The second area I recommended they focus on is a deeper understanding of success and failure in other categories of retail. Brainstorm a list of different categories where large retailers have come in, but some small businesses remain. Look at what has made them successful, or what has prevented them from being successful.

In each of those ways of pulling back from the problem, they may see some interesting strategies that can be adapted to their target, as well as develop a more nuanced take on the challenge for their target.

I look forward to seeing where they go with it and I will be sure to publish anything that goes live here.

Also: they told me about a new doc called Independent America where the filmmakers drive across the country talking to people in different small businesses. Sounds interesting.


About Steve