I recently came across an article in Fast Company about the coffee testers at Starbucks headquarters. It's the job of just seven people to make the final call on 75% of the beans the company will buy and roast each year. Their process of sampling and selecting beans is fascinating—and the way they signal that a certain bean is noteworthy, without swaying other testers, seems inspired by the same intent as our Forness® thinking. Check out the excerpt:
"After any brainstorming session, you’re left with a pile of ideas. Some are good. Some are bad. And it’s up to you and your colleagues to parse which is which. There’s just one problem: The climate of the room, set by a single zealot or Debby Downer, may guide the otherwise objective thinking of the team.So how do you make sure that you’re sidestepping corporate politics and magnetic personalities to get everyone’s unfettered opinion?
Starbucks has a fascinating solution: Keep your mouth shut, and simply move a glass just two inches left or right. [...]
[Testers] flag it, in essence, to tell the others “give this one special consideration.” It’s somehow notable.
Only once all of the tasters have tasted (and maybe retasted) that glass, forming their own, unfettered opinion, does a discussion begin."
Nothing is thrown out or selected based on one person's opinion. Only after being tested and discussed by everyone is a bean's fate—as a discard, house blend, espresso, or Starbucks reserve—decided. In the same way, Forness® thinking prevents the early death of ideas that have the potential to contribute to a product in development. By moving the valuable parts of an idea forward, instead of tossing out the whole thing, our clients are that much closer to achieving their goals.