One often overlooked factor, critical for generating truly breakthrough ideas, is creating the right context for new ideas to stand out from me-too or already-tried-that ideas that often end up filling post-it notes in an ideation workshop or ideation program.
Successful entrepreneurs are shrewd watchers of the market: The market and industry they play in, as well as adjacent, and seemingly non-adjacent markets, categories and industries. They’re making sure they understand what’s out there, so that they can clearly discern when they have an idea that’s truly new.
And, when we re-apply some of these best practices, the likelihood that we will generate and recognize breakthrough ideas is greatly increased.
1. Take a history lesson. Know what products and campaigns have been launched by the brand or company you are innovating for, as well as by their competitors and other industry players as far back as you can look. This history is often easy to access on company websites or social media home pages (like a Facebook fan page). It’s often overlooked since we tend to see old news as irrelevant, but, not only can this view of history ensure we know where we’ve been and how a brand or company has been built over time, but more than a few brands have “come back” to classic positioning or shorter, more “original” ingredient lists.
2. See what’s out there now. Taking an inventory of available products, services and campaigns is also key to setting the right context. Make sure you consider products, services and campaigns that are seemingly more widespread and broadly distributed, as well as those that are more obscure or targeted. This can inspire ways to expand into new markets, steer you clear of me-too products, or possibly identify innovation ideas that could be acquired and scaled. Thorough web searches, and in-market audits are often the best ways to get a robust understanding of currently available products, services and campaigns.
3. Know what’s coming. Of course, setting the right context to identify new ideas is enabled by considering ideas that are already in the pipeline being developed. While it’s probably easier to identify these products, services or campaigns within your own organization, searching through press releases (like this example from Campbell’s) and competitor fan pages can yield insight into future product launches.
4. Look beyond. Finally, having an external focus ensures the right context for new idea generation. Consumer preferences, trends inside the category and adjacent categories, technology, regulations and environmental factors — all of these are key external factors that can help to focus or give direction for setting the right context for idea generation. For example, the well-documented trend around the changing demographic in the US is likely a critical context for any direct to consumer ideas generated for launch in the next 5-10 years.
While this diligence we’re describing here may seem overly prescriptive and time consuming, it doesn’t have to be either. On-going “learning” via observation, reading and networking can ensure that this type of context setting is simply a part of our daily routine. You’ll find that it leads to breakthrough ideas not just in an ideation workshop, but on a regular basis.
The Garage Group enables corporate teams to innovate like startups. They work with teams on smart & scrappy approaches to market research and ideation workshops that lead to breakthrough ideas.