Insight for Innovation ®

Here, you will find thought-provoking (and perhaps smile-provoking) resources developed for product innovation professionals. Your feedback is not only welcome, it is actively encouraged. Feel free to comment on the Fresh Insights blog, download articles and peruse the original cartoons. Thanks for looking in.

June 16, 2010

Another Original Cartoon! Ideation Frustration

Yes, another cartoon.  Kindly indulge me.  This one pokes fun at the frustration some teams face with their internal brainstorming efforts.  Often, teams struggle to manage their own creative energy, and to generate output that is focused, on-strategy and actionable.


Here’s why I think ideation activities can fail:

  • Teams have an abundance of creative talent, but they may not have the tools to organize and focus it.
  • Consumer insights aren’t properly framed up to inspire and guide brainstorming.
  • Teams remain committed to the edict that “there are no bad ideas”.  See a previous post on this fallacy.
  • There’s no consensus on what a good idea is, or a coherent process for evaluating them.
  • Too much time is spent generating ideas, and not nearly enough on screening, integrating and recasting them.

But I think the biggest barrier is a more fundamental one.  Teams typically assume that the appropriate outcome of an ideation session is a small set of fully-fashioned, cohesive concepts that perform some combination of desired utility.  This may sound right, but in cases where the team is charged with inventing the truly new, it’s asking too much to walk out of the room with compelling, optimized solutions.

Instead, what if your ideation sessions focused on surfacing the best ways to deliver on a range of desired utilities?  The goal should be to originate well-defined feature or attribute sets that deliver on a strong consumer promise.  These may look like concepts–in pictures and/or words–but they represent the “what” rather than the “how” of typical concepts that try to do everything, but do nothing particularly well.

Here’s an example.  In my case study on crayon packaging, research showed that kids are enthralled by an initial spectacular array of color upon opening the package, but then quickly dig in to find their favorite colors.  I’ll bet there are a hundred ways in which a crayon package concept could present an array of color to visually inspire and excite kids.  Why not focus on that in isolation for a while?  And, there are another hundred ways that a package could assist kids in storing and finding their favorite colors.  Show me some!

Then, the evaluation process becomes one of assessing which attributes do the best job of delivering on the recognized needs.  The next step is to integrate the most compelling attributes into cohesive concepts.  So more time is spent building, testing and integrating ideas instead of spilling out scads of concepts on the odd chance that one will do it all, and do it right.

I call this Attribute-Oriented Innovation (AOI).  It’s an approach I devised as another way to look at ideation, concept development and screening.  It’s not always the right way to go, but when it is, it works.  Ask me about Precision Ideation–my way to incorporate AOI in ideation sessions that will:

  • Translate consumer insights into inspiring and actionable drivers of innovation.
  • Articulate compelling features and attributes brought to life real-time in words and pictures.
  • Focus creative energy to build the most promising early-stage concepts, with clear direction for development.

You can read more about Precision Ideation under the Tools section of this site.  And, you can see more cartoons right here, too!

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