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Liza Babcock

Ideating with Kids

Posted by Liza Babcock

There’s no better way to create for kids than with kids. Yet when developing kids’ products, it seems that their opinions are usually left out of the equation. At Ideas To Go, our job is to give kids the training and structure to use their natural curiosity and creativity.

As adults, it can seem like we’ve lost the level of creativity and playfulness that kids appear to be bursting with. Even parents of younger children don’t always see the world through their kids’ eyes. So involving kids in the early stages of product development provides the perfect opportunity to re-access that mindset: to hear what kids think about, and how they perceive the world. And as kids develop opinions of their own, it’s vital for marketers to tune into how they’re communicating them.

One of the key differences with this and kid-focused projects with other clients is the inclusion of kids. The likelihood of getting it right is greater with real insights from real kids. Taking the time to understand what speaks to children results in a better product. Having kids in session, especially with other parents in the backroom, is a very powerful opportunity to ideate around what kids want, and to learn what parents are comfortable purchasing.

Over the years, our expert facilitators have developed some Dos and Don’ts for ideating successfully with kids. Here are a few of them:

  1. DO articulate the purpose well. Keep it focused, and not too broad, to keep everyone on track. 
  2. DO free their creativity. Reassure kids that they are not in school—there’s no wrong way to ideate, and they won’t be graded. 
  3. DON’T try to ideate on their level, or think of them as mini-adults.  Let them tell you what works and what doesn’t.
  4. DO consider the role of the gatekeeper. Ultimately, parents have the buying power—so it’s important to get their perspective while finding the sweet spot of kid-created, parent-approved ideas. 
  5. DO look for what’s good in every idea. Because kids come up with stranger, further out ideas, they can help push to truly disruptive innovation. Since kids are comfortable with ideas like “a microchip pizza that senses what flavor you want to eat,” listen for the wish or need driving the idea to take it from outrageous to actionable.

One of the biggest compliments you can pay a kid is asking what he or she thinks.  When you let kids be themselves, and listen carefully, they can inform and inspire the product development process. If they’re taken seriously as future consumers, everyone reaps the benefits.

Liza Babcock is the Director of Operations at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.

©2013 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.


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