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.