Breaking through to bigger ideas can only happen when we examine problems with a fresh perspective. Too often, brands stay within the safe walls of their go-to ideas and processes, leaving valuable alternative views on the table that could potentially shift their thinking in a whole new way. Here are some ways to leverage external perspective to get brand teams to sprint forward faster.
- Involve consumers at every step of ideation and idea development. Gone are the days where consumers only come in to offer feedback during one focus group after initial idea development. In order to truly target consumers in a meaningful way, they need to be involved from start to finish. There are many different ways to do this, whether in person or virtual; multiple touch points across in-person and virtual mediums are key for successful learning. For example:
- Tap into consumer conversations, needs and insights around jobs to be done via social media and digital ethnography research.
- Use a digital idea-generation platform to enable consumers to vote and comment on initial ideas as clients are developing them.
- Video chat with target consumers on iPad in real time during ideation sessions to build out and refine raw ideas.
- Validate ideas using a prediction market where consumers can vote on which ideas they believe will be successful.
It is crucial to have constant consumer input during every step of idea development to get a full picture of the needs and wants of your target audience–and so you don’t waste money developing ideas that don’t meet a real consumer need. And, you don’t need as many external opinions as you think you do; the Sprint team at Google Ventures posits that just five consumer opinions are enough to start seeing trends and patterns in answers.
- Study adjacent trends and analogs from outside categories. Once you’re clear on the need or problem you’re solving for, it can be difficult to nail down how to address it. Learning how other categories and contexts have solved for similar needs is an effective way to spark associative thinking by giving your team a fresh collection of inspiration to pull from to form new ideas.Some of the greatest innovations and discoveries have come from looking at a problem through a slightly different lens in this way. For example, scientists have studied woodpeckers to prevent head injuries, and the subscription box model has been recycled over and over again for many different applications, from recipe kits to razors. Who knows–the latest engineering feat from NASA just might inspire a new line of snacks.
- Bring in fresh perspectives. Sometimes, it takes a person completely outside your project to help bring in ideas you might not have considered. If your ideation has gotten stale, bring in people who haven’t been in your category or are not familiar with your challenge. For our sessions, we like to bring in not just experts, but also entrepreneurs and creative people who have adjacent category knowledge and are skillful at connecting dots. New eyes and ears on a project are always valuable.
- Learn via immersive experiences. It’s one thing to read a case study of how a company has successfully implemented a strategy that you’re seeking to master, but it’s another thing to experience it. Marketing and innovation teams should physically try products or services they’d like to emulate or elevate, or visit stores that have mastered a strategy they’re attempting to pursue.Looking to implement an omnichannel or future of retail strategy? Visit a retailer that already has seamless integration (like Sephora), and attempt to make purchases in-store and via mobile. Generating a new business model? Explore as many different options relevant to your potential strategic directions as possible; then, use what works and learn from what doesn’t.An example of how we’ve implemented this strategy in our work is by leveraging “tasting menus” and “mystery boxes” of high volumes of snack items for food and beverage brands to help spark inspiration. These types of immersive experiences help drive home what great strategy looks and feels like, and the more examples that are pulled from, the better. Maximizing the number of experiences across your team will help give everyone a large number of possibilities to pull from as they’re forming new strategies and ideas.
- Leverage canvases and time pressure to apply and iterate. Once teams have gathered inspiration and external perspective, focus and time pressure have a way of forcing teams to quickly turn those new insights into meaningful value propositions and initiatives.In our work, we’ve found it helpful to employ sprint loops over the course of a day or week to enable platform or idea development. Teams leverage cross functional, consumer and expert feedback along the way to drive meaningful iteration to help build their initial seed of an idea into a well developed and thought through initiative plan. Learning and failing fast against a focused direction is an effective way to break through to bigger ideas and faster results.
The Garage Group helps corporates innovate and grow like startups through approaches grounded in speed, iteration and external perspective.