A client with whom I have developed a strong working relationship over the past two years recently asked me, “What changes would you make to the process and/or what your clients are doing that you think would result in stronger final ideas?”
Bring me in earlier. Let me have a crack at the earliest, exploration phase of the process.
See, by the time 9 out of 10 projects make it to us at Ideas To Go, the challenge has already been defined. It reminds me of that old (alleged) Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Many of our clients have already decided on “a faster horse” before they walk in the door—so that’s the challenge we spend our time working on with Creative Consumers® associates (CCs). And they can, and WILL do a fantastic job dreaming up faster horses.
But we can do So. Much. More.
One of my favorite projects of all time was with a client who came in to explore ways to tell a better story about one of their products. In fact, they wanted the story to be about just one, specific ingredient in one of their products. There were no guardrails on how to tell that story. And once CCs started thinking about the story, new product and new positioning ideas just emerged on their own—no faster-horse-thinking required.
Opportunity Exploration is what we at Ideas To Go call the "pre-ideation phase" of our innovation process. There are huge end-result upsides from engaging in a creative process during this phase vs. a research methodology:
You will challenge your Confirmation Bias and hear the things consumers are asking for that DON’T support what you think you’ll learn going in—which will open you up to exploring paths you hadn’t thought were important originally.
You might up-end your Curse of Knowledge and Status Quo Bias to discover a connected, larger, and/or more interesting opportunity—which will result in bigger and more exciting final ideas.
You will plow right through your (and your team’s) Availability Bias to identify richer Target Areas (Platforms, Pillars, etc.) for ideation—which will result in richer and more diverse ideas in your final set.
Have you been stuck in faster-horse-thinking? Let’s see what we can do about that.
Dina Pancoast is an Innovation Process consultant 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.