I was recently reminded how difficult FMCG companies make it for themselves to get innovation that works. Ponderous gate processes, team silos and reliance on prescribed research methodologies all work against the very nature of innovation.
Very often innovation processes go something like idea, concept, product, market mix testing. Each stage being a gate that requires a certain “pass mark” before additional resources will be released from the business to explore further. This linear process is counter-intuitive to how great innovation is developed.
Restructuring your process itself to be more creatively intuitive, to be more innovative in fact, is key to
getting better innovation out of your organization.
If you want to get great innovation, you actually have to be innovative.
This may be difficult for large companies, who necessarily rely on structured and formulaic processes for efficiency. The innovation gate processes are important tools for making investment decisions. They are evaluative, and of course, evaluating whether to invest in new innovation is an essential step. But, employed as the innovation process within a business, they hinder the development of ideas and products for consideration. This is because they are linear processes, and successful innovation is anything but linear.
As some companies are starting to understand, innovation requires space from business as usual. That is why you see more progressive businesses setting up innovation labs or separating out innovation development from brand management as they seek to find a process that encourages innovation, rather than hinders it.
In developing a more robust and successful innovation process for your business, consider the following to improve your chance at better NPD outcomes.
Harness the power of Cross-Functional Project Teams
Create a dedicated team focused on a particular opportunity or consumer problem. For better success, populate your team with cross-functional experts from across your business.
Ideas grow from collaboration – and when your collaborators have varied experiences and perspectives, richer ideas and solutions are more likely. In addition, when your team comes from various parts of the business, they are likely to innovate solutions that work for the whole business.
Importantly, cross-functional teams increase ownership and advocacy of the resulting innovation across the business, and gives it the best chance of successfully navigating the commercial and political reality of the organisation.
In the words of design-thinking guru Tom Kelly (The Art of Innovation), innovation starts with an eye. When we see and experience things for ourselves, we start the process of creativity. Ideas require inspiration.
Moving beyond your category in search of this inspiration frees you from the assumptions that hold you back and allows new ideas and thoughts to bloom. From living relevant trends to experiencing related worlds, inspiration is a pivotal part of having good ideas.
See the world through the eyes of your consumer
Observing consumers in their actual environments, listening to the stories they tell, talking to them while they are making their decisions are all exceptional ways to start thinking like a consumer.
Don’t outsource this to your researcher (who makes an excellent team member) or expect to gain this through focus groups (or worse, the debrief of focus groups). To inspire, the consumer's world needs to be experienced, first hand, by all members of the team. This allows you to see consumer & brand problems for yourself, and therein lies the opportunity to develop innovation that meets consumer needs.
Iterate Relentlessly with Dynamic Consumer Feedback
Iterating relentlessly prior to testing ideas/concepts is an incredibly important, and often overlooked part of innovation development. Use consumers creatively through the iteration process to turn ideas into products/services. There are plenty of innovative ways to bring consumers into the mix, and in the mix they should be. But, instead of using focus groups as a go/no go checkpoints on early concepts, utilise regular and dynamic feedback from consumers, interpreted by your team’s considerable expertise, to learn, apply and redevelop proposed ideas/products before you put them through a testing regime.
Easy access to online survey platforms and a readily available sample - via customer databases or online panels - provide businesses with unparalleled opportunities to gather information about their consumers, without engaging market research professionals.
But there are dangers in surveying without expertise. Unless questionnaires are thoughtfully constructed, the right data collected and objectively assessed, it is quite easy to to get meaningless data… or, even worse, data which doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. And this can severely impact on the decisions you take as a business.
So, if you are eager to mine your user-base for useful insights and learnings without the help of an expert, here are six important principles to adhere to in creating your survey questionnaire.
Flow & Structure
This may seem like a no brainer, but you would be surprised at some of the things we’ve seen. The order matters, and it needs to make logical sense to the person who is filling it in. Also, responses can be influenced by previous questions, so you need to keep that in mind when you are structuring the questionnaire.
For results to be even vaguely useful, the questions have to be interpreted and answered as you intended, and in the same way by all the respondents. Questions therefore need to be simple and clear, with no room for confusion about what could be meant. This is harder to achieve than you might expect.
Closed questions - that is, providing a set range of options from which people make choices - is the most efficient and useful way to survey responses. Open-ended questions have value, but all responses have to be sifted through and coded, which is time consuming and adds to the expense and length of the questionnaire. However, when providing a range of options, you must make sure all the appropriate responses are accounted for, and that they are unique from each other. Also,
Randomisation is particularly important if you are showing respondents more than one concept or idea. To avoid bias, ensure concepts are randomised or rotated, so that across the sample each concept has an equal chance of being seen first, and the overall order in which they are seen changes.
You can and should also randomise the order in which respondents see attributes within a question, to minimise order effect.
Now, there is no hard and fast rule for the timing of a questionnaire, but think about it from the perspective of the respondent (who, I promise you, is not as interested in sitting down and doing this questionnaire as you might imagine). As short as possible is key. The shorter the survey the more likely you are to get it completed, and the more likely it is to be thoughtfully answered.
Of course you need to keep testing it yourself, ironing out the kinks. Even the professionals do this, so don’t skimp this stage. But more importantly, you need some willing outsiders to test it to. By this, I mean people who are similar to your target sample. People who have the same level of understanding on the subject that your consumers do. The questionnaire is the collector of the data – if it is not right, then your data is not going to be trustworthy. So, test and test and test again.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even mentioned the types of scales you can use, how to read the data or how to identify meaningful insights from it. But it is a start. If you are looking to make important decisions on the data you collect (and why are you doing the survey if you aren’t?), it really is worth engaging an expert to help you along the way.
Bedrock Insight facilitates and nurtures consumer understanding. We help clients combine consumer research with internal expertise to deliver rich, market-relevant insights.
Want to know more? Here are some other resources:
Creative thinking is a fundamentally different approach to problem solving compared to critical thinking. But, it is creative thinking that generates the idea sparks that lead to meaningful innovation. Possibilities open up when we are freed from the constraints of an evaluative and judgemental mindset. Ideas will only grow into opportunities if we are able to explore them playfully – that is, with the mindset of trying things out and seeing what happens, without judgement.
Of course, there is a time for evaluation, for critical thinking, and that is an important part of the innovation process – but you cannot be creative and critical at the same time. Ideation is a creative process. Evaluation a critical one.
Innovation workshops – creative thinking workshops - require a different skill set to critical thinking. Central to the success of these workshops is a sense of play and risk-taking. Being able and willing to throw out ideas and thoughts, however crazy, is encouraged because it could spark a new line of thinking in someone else.
The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.
Carl Jung, psychologist, psychiatrist
Ideas come from our play instincts, and the art of running good innovation workshops is to encourage and foster a sense of play.
Energisers, ice-breakers and other creative thinking games are designed to bring this sense of play into the workshop and help attendees unlock their creative instincts and open up to new possibilities. They are essential to the creative thinking process and to successfully generating new possibilities or identifying disruptive threats.
Here are 5 reasons why you should ensure your workshop is peppered with energisers and creative thinking games – and it is not just about managing energy!
Energisers – and the type of energisers used – send a signal to attendees about the tone and parameters of the session. It gives overt permission to participants that they are allowed to step outside of their traditional roles and try something different. Participating in energisers tells people they are allowed to think differently, try out new ideas and take risks. Starting your day with play-like games helps participants revert to a more childlike place - where imagination is given a much freer reign. It tells your attendees that you expect and encourage a different approach to a standard day in the office.
One of the biggest issues to deal with in creative thinking workshops is differing levels of power and status. Ideation requires a non-judgemental space where people feel safe to contribute. People won’t put forward ideas if they think it is going to make them look bad to their boss. The flow will be disrupted and the session rendered largely useless if participants are pre-judging their ideas before sharing them with the broader group. Energisers can be used creatively as a way to level the playing field and make sure everyone feels equal during this session. If your boss is happy doing something weird and out there, then so should you.
Ideas are developed through sharing. A team that works together and is open to each others’ contributions, willing to listen and build on each others’ ideas is far more likely to develop successful ideas and concepts. Energisers are an important part of building a team mentality, and creating team energy that can be harnessed in the creative process
On a practical level, energisers and creative thinking games help people think differently about the problem they are trying to solve. They are tools that can be used to encourage participants to see alternative options, and have ideas from a different perspective. Simply asking people to “brainstorm” will get surface thoughts, but these thoughts will (unless your group is full of natural creative thinkers) be very grounded in existing thinking – and probably quite similar to what your competitors would come up with given the same information. Using energising games to create new perspectives will help your participants think creatively – and come up with ideas they wouldn’t have had in the shower. For some ideas on creative thinking games, check out this blog.
Focus and Energy
Of course, the standard use for energisers is to provide energy and impetus to a group meeting. This is not to be sniffed at, as it is a key part of managing group dynamics and keeping the session on track. Better than lollies, energisers really do boost energy levels and refocus the mind on the task at hand. Energiser games, as silly as they might sometimes seem, keep people stimulated, engaged and in the room. Save your most energising energiser for the post lunch slump!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I know people who regularly break the law. A lot of people – good citizens, family people. People who bake cakes for fundraisers. People who regularly visit their elderly parents. They have been driven to it because they were tired, desperate, frustrated, left stranded, unable to communicate, left in the dark.
Yes, I am talking about Uber users.
The word ‘disruption’ cannot be used often enough for Uber. It feels like the perfect case study of a classic tool that we at Bedrock Insight use regularly in our workshops: Imagine the rules of a category. Now – break those rules.
Umm, I’m starting to sound like I might know too much about this illegal activity…..so you get the picture. True disruption looks at the category rules and breaks them. True disruption also looks at what consumer needs are and addresses them – it’s not just about making Donald Trump type noise. (Please don’t let the American public prove me wrong on that one). In this day and age it often involves technology but it isn’t just about the technology like it was in the earlier days when the Walkman disappeared. So the playing field is open wider than two guys in a Silicon Valley garage.
There will always be people who try to take down disruptive innovation, to pressure regulators and policymakers to stop the change. The NSW Taxi Council is clearly trying to take down Uber with their latest campaign: Ridesharing – it’s no Safer than Hitchhiking. Should they invest in attacking the competition or instead recognise what Uber has done and try to evolve themselves? When disruptive innovation hits, as in the advent of the personal computer, which rendered mainframes and minicomputers obsolete, the competition can be slow to recognise the threat until long-time customers jump ship. iTunes and music downloads, eBay and online sales, RyanAir and cheap flights; each of these innovations has overturned age-old industry practices and brought much in the way of change.
The number of companies that have been successful by rejecting change and ignoring consumer sentiment is almost zero. Does anyone remember Kodak? In this day and age, the only constant IS change. Can you disrupt in your market? If not, what can you learn from those around you who are disrupting? Are you disruption-proof? We at Bedrock Insight would love to help you to find out.
For more information on how we can help contact us on email@example.com
Recently, traipsing around Chelsea Markets in New York (as you do), I was reminded how essential a change in perspective is to creating energy in the thinking process and sparking new ideas or thoughts.
Successful brands, campaigns and businesses are those that are not afraid to challenge the existing status quo and their own assumptions or sacred cows to grow and thrive. They are businesses that are led by innovative thinkers and it is this fresh thinking – creative thinking - that allows them to seek out, explore and capitalise on new opportunities.
Innovative thinking, however, requires inspiration. It is very hard, if not impossible, to come up with new solutions or opportunities to grow businesses and solve problems within the boundaries and constraints of that business.
Or, as Albert Einstein, supposedly said: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
This may be because we humans naturally think in patterns. These patterns allow us to process vast amounts of information and they create short cuts to solutions. The help us quickly evaluate things. They are absolutely important in decision making (and survival). But, those patterns also mean it is difficult to see alternative outcomes with the same inputs. Whilst work processes and procedures might well drive efficiencies, they are toxic to fresh thinking.
Henry Ford: "If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got."
Inspiration is the fodder for creativity - for ideas. Inspiration is what allows your mind to jump the well worn thought pathways entrenched in the way you think, and see new opportunities, approaches or strategies that can transform your business.
Of course, it is impractical to jet off to a foreign land every time you feel the need to shake up the idea machine in your head. So, here are five different ways you can kick-start your creative thinking juices right here at home.
Assume a different perspective
Looking at your business or problem through the eyes of someone else prompts you to think about things you might not normally consider. Using the different characteristics of well known people gives you permission to stretch your thinking into new areas which you may not be comfortable with, or able to do, within your existing company cultural constraints.
Use the characteristics of well known people to lend a new lens to your problem. What would Steve Jobs or Walt Disney do if walked into your office today? If you look at your business through the entrepreneurial eyes of Richard Branson, what ideas can be identified?
Take time to identify those characteristics your want to explore. And then apply them to your situation. What new ideas emerge?
Learn from others
Learning from the experiences of other people provides a great deal of inspiration in tackling your own problems.
From Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull) to Elon Musk (Tesla), from Kotex to Avis, there are countless examples of entrepreneurs and businesses that have successfully navigated difficult situations to win and bring about change.
Review what they did. What happens if you apply that same thinking to your business? Start building yourself a library of case studies and learn from the experiences of others.
Connect with real people.
Get out from behind the spread sheets and the one way mirrors and have direct contact with people in your target market. How do end-users talk about your categories and brands? What needs are not being met out there by you or your competition? Strike up conversations in store, at coffee shops or while waiting for the bus. Set up consumer connections in interesting and unusual places. (There is nothing interesting about a group room). Observe how your products work in the real world, and the differences between what people say and what they do.
The task is not to talk too much, but to listen, and more importantly to observe. Observation, after all, unlocks insight. And insight is the foundation for ideas.
Visit the Fringe
Particularly useful for mass marketers, take time to learn from the fringes of the category. What are the early adopters buying? What trends are nibbling away at the edges of your category? New ideas are already bubbling up on the edges of your market. Your category is no doubt already full of niche products that may offer exciting ideas for future development. There are interesting products in your categories that are being sold in different ways at farmers markets, in delis, at health food stores, online.
Immerse yourself in an alternative view of your category and see what you can learn. How can you apply those learnings to your business problem?
Do something seemingly completely unrelated.
Do you know Steve Jobs apparently took a calligraphy course when he was trying to explore how to apply aesthetics and beauty to the clunky world of computers?
When we explore a completely unrelated world with our problem in mind, our brains forge new pathways and connections which allow new ideas to emerge. What can you learn from doing something quite unrelated?
Of course, there is a skill (and ironically, a process) to turning inspiration into ideas,and initial idea sparks into solid, investigable concepts or strategies. Whether it is for a specific project or to drive cultural change, imbedding an immersion programme and turning that inspiration into insight takes effort and planning. Utilising a skilled facilitator will help unlock the creative power in your organisation and help you unleash ideas that might just put you ahead of the pack.
Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Recently I was at a friend’s 40th birthday party, chatting to his mother. No shrinking violet, Suzanne had raised 3 unruly boys and fostered the 15 year old daughter of a terminally ill neighbour, all whilst running 2 successful youth hostels in Sydney’s inner suburbs. An impressive woman by today’s standards, and even more so in the era in which she juggled her parenting with working (and no doubt all the household tasks too, given she was married to a busy doctor).
As we stood about, in this mixed group of young children, middle aged parents and a scattering of baby boomer grandparents, we discussed being a working mum. We were of course interested in Suzanne’s experiences; she was virtually a pioneer after all. Around the time I was born it was not uncommon - nor ever considered poor form - to mourn the fact that women were now working rather than being at home where they rightfully belonged.
Suzanne’s sage advice was that now that we were of ‘middle age’, it was the time that we should be looking for our second career, the one that would take less energy and ambition and lead us easily into retirement.
An awkward silence fell amongst the group. Many of us have recently found our second career. The part time one that enables us to manage our young children through primary school, that gives us flexibility to see the school play and maybe lighten the workload – or at least juggle some hours - during school holidays. Some of the mums had only just been able to return to the workforce in some form, because the costs of childcare had made working financially impossible before their children began school.
But for most if not all, the change of career wasn’t put in place with a mind to how we will be able to work when we are “old”. (And we are most definitely older than Suzanne was when her children were young - the median age for mothers was 25.4 years in 1971 versus 30.7 years in 2010 . But in certain geographic areas the average age of first mothers is well above this, where career and travel might have delayed the start of family life.)
Occasionally I do cast a fleeting glance forward. It’s hard to imagine that far, when I still have a child in day-care and night nappies, but I do realise that I will be 56 when my last child leaves high school – 4 years out from supposedly accessing my superannuation and leading a blissful life caravanning around Australia. (My own mother was 47 when I left high school.) Yet, it's child care and school fees over superannuation for me for some time to come, which is a position many of my generation of older mums will face. We are definitely a new type of sandwich generation – trying to decide whether to invest in our future or that of our kids?
And the government is clear that workplace participation must expand – women need to get back into the workplace after having children, and we need to work longer. This is important both from an economic perspective, with estimates that women’s contribution to productivity could improve the GDP by 11% and what we have to offer in terms of experience. Further, the growth in the workplace won’t come from anywhere else. Growth in the population of traditional workforce age is expected to slow to almost zero. This is a permanent change. And of course a personal incentive is to keep working to pay for that caravan and oh, keep living well to the ripe old age of 86, our current life expectancy.
One thing I do wonder is whether I be able to manage this marvellous flexible job when I am 55 years old? We talk about the buoyant health of our baby boomer generation versus their parents, so will generation X be in even finer form? Or will I have to find a perky intern to help carry my facilitator’s suitcase around for me? It has me speculating on whether my generation of mums will need to find a “third” career to sustain us in the later years of our long long working lives.
It’s good to know that I won’t be alone, anyway. There has already been a sharp rise in the number of women aged 60-64 still in the labour force, jumping from 15.2% in 1993 to 45% in 2013. And as the population is aging, my client base will be aging with me so let’s hope I am not plagued by the age discrimination that is impacting the current baby boomer generation. A survey of 14,000 Australian women has revealed almost half believe they had personally been discriminated against because of their age, and 62 per cent of respondents believed employers are more likely to hire a candidate under the age of 40.
So I’d better start putting some money in the piggy bank, as it’s a long road ahead for me. The good news is that according to a study combing polls of tens of thousands of women in several countries, including Australia, we have the age of 58 to look forward to – when we apparently, finally, get that elusive work/life balance under control.
Along with many of you perhaps, I recently braved a crisp early morning start to take part in this year’s ANZAC dawn service. While watching my children lay a wreathe for their Scout group, I realised that these commemorations are not about celebrating victory or success, nor are they a recounting of facts and statistics (those who wish to critique the veracity of the ANZAC memory should take heed), this is about partaking in the stories which define this nation.
The individual experiences of soldiers sent to war from a newly formed nation have cumulated into a collective story of national pride. A story about bravery and heroism, about sacrifice and loss and overcoming adversity through mateship and tenacity. The ANZAC story has been woven into the fabric of Australian culture for a hundred years, and as a result, has become an integral part of the Australian identity.
As this demonstrates, stories are powerful. They create culture. They create ideology. They create identity.
They are the way human beings make sense of the world around them and the rules or mores which they feel compelled to follow.
Stories are an infinitely human tradition.
Sages of all types imparted wisdom in parables and stories long before reading and writing developed. Stories have always been the way which the hard-fought wisdom needed for survival has been encoded and passed down for future generations.
Stories make us feel connected to our fellow human beings and part of something bigger than ourselves. They provide escape, inspiration, ideas… hope.
Ultimately, stories are an essential part of how we communicate with each other. We process and remember information much more easily when it comes in the form of a story, in part because the narrative cause and effect structure mimics the way our brains operate. We remember information and engage with that information more powerfully because stories engage more parts of our brain. The brain, it appears, does not differentiate between hearing the story and experiencing the story. In addition, because our brain naturally makes sense of sensorial input by referencing previous knowledge, metaphors create powerful connections.
Brand positioning is ultimately about creating a story around a product beyond its physical traits and benefits. We use these stories as a way for our target market to process important information about our products. Good advertising uses stories to encode brand messages into a compelling narrative that sinks deep into the subconscious of our would-be consumers. Stories help take our brands beyond rational decision making and into a powerful emotive space where they are perceived to meet far more than a functional need. Branding, at its most effective, is about weaving a story so compelling that people embrace the brand as part of their world.
Brand engagement and the rise and rise of content marketing is about creating or letting consumers create brand stories. RedBull is a long time expert at this. The Share a Coke campaign leveraged this well.
But what of the role of stories in market research?
Good market researchers use story-telling effortlessly to convey insights and information to their clients. But, can the power of stories be used to garner insight in the first place?
The stories consumers tell provides us researchers illumination into context of consumers' lives. And it is in this context that we find insight. It is the ability to use narratives to explore motivations than makes qualitative research useful.
However, often times even qual is used to try and elicit rational responses to behaviour.
The truth is we often don't know what really drives our decision making, and quite often those decisions are not rational. Instead of asking consumers to provide rationalised explanations for their behaviour or preferences we gain more insight into those drivers when we develop meaningful understanding about our consumers beyond their momentary engagement with our products.
Narrative - the power of story - provides this opportunity for understanding. Through their stories, we can start to understand the bigger picture of their lives. This in turn will open our eyes to the role our brands might play in those lives.
Because stories are how we human beings convey meaningful information to each other, perhaps it is also how we should gather meaningful information in our pursuit of insight?
Image courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
There is no doubt that the world feels like a slightly terrifying place at the moment. Top of mind from the last year alone we can cite the Ebola crisis, Boko Haram, an aeroplane that seemingly disappeared from the sky, the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the continuing threat of ISIL.
The crisis that was closest to home for me – the hostages of the Lindt Café – made me wonder about the nature of humans in a disaster. As I walked past Martin Place just hours after it unfolded, I witnessed people already standing in queues to buy flowers to lay tribute. Of course, we saw how the flowers kept coming and soon there was a huge tribute wreath to which Sydney-siders came for days and days to pay their respects. It made me wonder – is this just the great sense of solidarity and mateship that we believe pulls Australians together in a crisis? Or is this simply human behaviour at its core? How do human beings behave in a crisis?
Popular culture and the media do not generally portray humans as an awesome lot to hang with in the post-apocalyptic days. Hollywood movies & TV depict a bunch of ruthless, individualistic, dog-eat-dog types competing for scarce resources after the alien/zombie/tidal wave invasion. However, studies in the sociology of disaster paint human beings in a very different light. Myths about disasters are widespread and often perpetrated by the media – the bad stuff makes good news after all. Yet, the disaster research centre of Ohio has studied nearly 100 different disasters since 1963 and found that preconceived beliefs are generally untrue.
Myth #1: The roads will clog with panicked people fleeing from the scene of the impending disaster.
Research shows that the reverse is usually true – that people dig their heels in and chose to “wait it out”. I know someone evacuated during the Lindt siege who refused to leave – it wasn’t like he was asked to flee his childhood homeland, but was simply offered the option of finishing his work safely at home in his ugg boots. He chose, however, to stay in the office - he was too close to finishing a deal he had been working on for a fortnight.
Myth #2: Looting is abundant so best load up your rifle to protect what’s yours
Actually, communal property norms uphold and most people don’t loot. People are feeling altruistic and are less concerned about long term goals such as status and wealth which generally feed materialism. Further, they commonly try to share what little they have rather than take from others.
Myth #3: Crime rates run rampant as baddies become more opportunistic
Crimes rates have actually been noted to drop during a post emergency period (although it must be remarked upon that the police probably have bigger fish to fry versus rolling out the booze bus.) However, research shows that the sense of the need to care for others is generally heightened, rather than the desire to take from others.
Myth #4: “Disaster shock” occurs and the impacted population are too dazed and useless to help themselves, an idea made popular in writing by Naomi Klein.
Yet, the evidence suggests that disaster shock is a rarely seen phenomenon, and when it is evidenced it is usually short lived. Actually, the immediate post impact period is highlighted by intense activity, the emergence of new groups, and adaptive behaviour.
Myth #5: We will all be huddled in make-ship camps eating bad food from tins
Popular culture will have disaster survivors huddled together in overcrowded public shelters, peering bleakly at the camera from their temporary and unhomely abode. In fact, research shows that in these short term crises, 70-90% of people will stay with friends, relatives, neighbours or put themselves up in hotels – again demonstrating how people naturally pull together in a crisis.
Indeed, in her book A Paradise Built In Hell, Rebecca Solnit writes that disasters bring out the best in us and that post disaster behaviour is in fact what we should be striving for as a civilized society. (Obviously without the disaster bit). Studies show us to be more cohesive and unified, more innovative at problem solving and far more resilient than we are given credit for.
Rebecca goes so far as to assert that in reality it is either botched government response or the media deliberately heightening our fears of what might happen that impedes our ability to go about with our collective efforts to regroup. For example, she notes of the Hurricane Katrina: “Myths spread about things like the rape of children in the Louisiana Superdome, of mass looting, of black mobs menacing white property. Tape loops of the very worst behavior ran over and over on television, obscuring what life in the city was really like…A militaristic mood set in, with white vigilantes out patrolling for, and sometimes killing, the black people they falsely imagined were threatening them.”
So, if left to our own devices more or less, we humans do tend to be a pretty good bunch in the aftermath of the apocalypse. But is it just us Aussies, or is it a human thing? Whilst Aussies would like to say otherwise, it seems it is a fairly universal human truth. That said, culture does play a role upon emergent behaviour during disaster response. Studies have compared responses in the USA and Japan and show that both countries exhibit cooperative emergent phenomena after disaster - in Japan, even the mafia worked with the government. However, it has been noted that emergent behaviour and organization are less likely to appear in Japan than the USA.
So maybe we Aussies can take a little bit of credit for our sense of mateship after all…
Today’s world is one where almost everything can be proved, researched or fact checked at the click of a mouse. The internet has sped up our connectivity making it harder to lie to your family, plagiarise your essay (or blog! Not that we would!) or call in sick to work on a Monday after a particularly hectic weekend.
However, we as humans feel the consequence of this lack of mystery, this need for myth that humans crave. This can’t be all there is, surely? There must be more to balance all that we “know”? It goes as far back as the campfire lore of our primal ancestors, the birth of spirituality and, more recently, aliens and conspiracy theories. We cry out for magic in our rational world.
However, on the other side, is that fact that the current digital culture is in some ways returning the story to the campfire, by allowing it to evolve, to be passed on by different voices, to become alive in different tangents and forms.
In a book or film, there is one narrative told from start to end. There is a known author, or studio director, and we know that the story that is told projects their point of view. The internet, however, is like falling down the rabbit hole – there are many different versions of a story, some overlapping and some diverging and what is truth or otherwise can get lost in the retelling.
Take Slenderman, the personification of how modern digital myths work. A tall, faceless man lurking in the back of photographs on the web, said to stalk children amongst other hazy misdeeds. Although he has a very clear and indisputable point of creation, he has now taken on a digital life of his own, and inspired his own conversations – what exactly does he look like? Where does he lurk? What is his motivation? Was he actually inspired by real events? He has even become an offline urban myth too, sparking real life crime by those that claim to be coerced by him. (Not that we advocate that in brand followers!)
So whilst the current transparency of information means the myth can be traced back to its origins with enough diligence, the tangled nature of the web conversely gives it an authenticity and connectivity that continually builds upon it.
Thought provoking for marketers in the digital age. Although a brand could start its own story, if the idea is sticky enough it can take hold and evolve, get shaped and hence owned, by its consumers. Although no small risk to let a brand out of your own hands, the amplification of the story has far greater potential for saliency than a traditional media strategy might. This could be particularly interesting for brands with history, or brands with interesting characterisation or spokespeople. Can you engage consumers to continue to create your brand story in the digital realm?
Successful innovation is fundamental to the growth model. However, it is one thing to sit around a room and ideate, and quite another to land innovation that takes off and adds to the long term growth of a brand.
In essence, there are no shortage of good ideas to be found, but shaping good ideas into something concrete that gets both consumer and business traction is the more difficult task.
Employing a design thinking approach helps drive up the likelihood of success.
In their book, Creative Confidence, Tom and David Kelley describe this way of innovating as “combining empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analysing and fitting various solutions to the problem context”.
While some people may be scared away by the “design” in design thinking, it is important to realise that you don't need to know how to draw to successfully engage in design thinking. In the same way that creative thinking does not exclusively belong in the realm of creative types, it is the thinking part that matters.
While differences in processes exist between different companies, there are some core principles that remain consistent through out.
A Human-Centric Approach
Design thinking is an empathetic approach to problem solving. It is about engaging with consumers first hand in order to see opportunities and problems for yourself.
This philosophy is central to all phases of a design thinking process. This is because insight comes from observation. Or, as we like to say, insight begins with an eye.
Observation not only allows for ideas to be sparked, it also (and more importantly) identifies what the problems really are. It reframes brand problems as people problems. And once you have people problems, you can start ideating people orientated solutions. Observation allows us to develop ideas against the backdrop of a real human need. It ensures we are ideating in a rich and meaningful space to real people.
Observation shouldn’t end at the problem definition stage. Using consumer feedback on your ideas throughout the development process ensures that products you develop are designed with the end user in mind. Bringing your end users in to help you build the product will result in a better product all round.
Imagination and Iteration
Brainstorming ideas is obviously a key part of an ideation process. In this process, the initial ideation is about creating a large volume of ideas. The key, however, is to sift through these ideas for ones that have energy and then to iterate them relentlessly.
Ideas do not spring fully formed into the world. They require input, improvement, adaptation, alteration. Initial ideas that have some spark need to be played with – stretched, moulded and changed – through the liberal use of the phrase “what if…” and other creative thinking techniques.
Being open to changing ideas and building on them is how good ideas grow into great concepts. It’s hard work. As Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”.
A Learning Mindset
To successfully develop new and exciting products requires a learning mind set. That is, the ability to listen to all feedback and understand what works and why things don’t (rather than staunchly defending your ideas). Good design thinkers consciously and rigorously seek improvements to their ideas at all stages of development.
While ideas are best built and explored collaboratively, end-user feedback during the process is key. Running your ideas past team mates and end users is not about testing ideas. It is about learning from the feedback they have to offer. Leave the pass or fail mentality at the door and listen to why ideas appeal (or don’t) to those you most want to target. Hand drawn concepts and rough prototypes will help with this process.
In many cases, particularly in FMCG, a project ends with theoretical concepts that test well for consumers. However, there is a long journey between that point and making the final product. Adopting design thinking principles during the product development phase will help create a more robust and satisfactory end product. Iterate relentlessly and learn from the feedback of real people.
Feasibility & Business Buy in
Creative thinking and letting go of constraints is essential in the ideation process. However, at some point, business and market feasibility must play its part. Rationally assessing which concepts to take forward against the capabilities and will of the organisation is an integral part of getting innovation off paper and into the real world. In some respects, this can be the hardest part of a project, and many great ideas have been developed only to fail business hurdles.
Developing a set of business criteria to roughly filter ideas before they are iterated is a good idea. A lot of effort goes into the iteration process and ensuring the ideas you work on are within the scope of what the business is prepared to invest in is important.
Sometimes ideas may not fit into the capabilities of the business. If the idea feels springy, this is a perfect opportunity to ask yourselves “how do we make it fit?” In this way, you are combining creative thinking within the evaluative process to plumb ideas for further opportunity.
As ideas become more concrete and concepts are finalised, understanding how they perform on core business measures means they can be prioritised for development. It is here that traditional concept research should be engaged, as measured consumer appeal is part of a thorough feasibility review. However, using a more design led approach to develop these concepts will mean your concepts are as strong as they could be before you spend the money on concept testing research.
Contact us to learn more about the Bedrock Sharp Eyes philosophy, our design thinking approach to ideation.