PackageRepublic.com: Passion for Packaging Innovation

Consumer centric innovation – Part V – ideation

What’s There To Write About Ideation?

These days, it seems that there are so many people talking about innovation, doing innovation, and selling brainstorming as an innovation process, this topic seems a bit passé.

However, these claims do not mean that ideation is being done right. We have seen our share of people doing it in rather questionable ways. For successful ideation, consider these factors:

The Number of Participants

This is not a numbers game. In fact, contrary to popular belief, it has been shown time and again with empirical evidence that individual brainstorming is actually more productive than group brainstorming.

While we are not suggesting people to brainstorm in their rooms, you need to be aware of the pitfalls of having a high number of people sit in the same room. It is always good to limit the team size to less than 12 people.

Group-think

This is the main reason why you need true professional diversity in your cross-functional team. We know that when you repeatedly brainstorm in a particular industry, even with completely different participants, after the umpteenth brainstorming session, you not only get the same ideas, but you also get the same paths arriving at those ideas. The main reason for this is availability bias.

You need to have outsiders and professionals. These are typically innovation professionals and consultants. In order for a company to successfully fill and maintain an innovation pipeline, it also needs to nurture its own innovation professionals as well to overcome availability bias in an organization. These are not your engineers or marketing managers moonlighting as innovation professionals. They need to do this all day, everyday.

Team Composure

In cross-functional package innovation teams typically engineering, manufacturing, brand management, product management, and financial analysis are represented. The professionals who facilitate the sessions are typically industrial designers, usability specialists, and prototyping personnel.

It is typical to want to have open minded and free thinking individuals in ideation sessions. While negative and opinionated people can drag the team chemistry down and hinder ideation productivity, our first priority is to look for people who are comfortable in working in a chaotic environment. People who have done this before repeatedly, i.e. the professionals, tend to trust the process and be more productive in it.

People who are not used to structured innovation, high uncertainty and chaos, need to be indoctrinated into package innovation projects with a controlled absorption rate. What we mean by that, is you can not put together a team consisting of 80% new comers. We typically tend to limit people who are not familiar with structured innovation to less than 30% of the team.

Duration

Invention is not innovation. Structured innovation is not about sitting in a room until you invent something. Innovation projects in packaging typically run about 6 months each. In a period shorter than that you do not have sufficient time to innovate. If it lasts longer than that, the process gets stagnant, and takes on a life of its own.

In the ethnosync.com‘s C●C™ model, as shown in the above graphic, the brainstorming / ideation section of the process is just a small dot. The reason is that formal ideation is a three day fragment of a six month long structured innovation process.

This does not mean that ideas are generated in three days, and then it is over. In the three days, seeds of concepts are generated which are worked on in the second half of the project, prototyped, tested (with consumers), improved, combined with other ideas, and retested in a reiterative fashion. But ideation as such, lasts only 2-3 days.

Productivity

Usually, 100-150 ideas and early concepts are generated to be taken to the next part of the process. It is important to have a high number of entries. If your ideation yields over a hundred ideas and concepts, at the end of the process you may end up with 2-4 workable innovative full-blown package concepts. The reason is innovation processes typically function at their highest efficiency when failures occur fast and early, when failing is cheap. This, by design, results in lower yields.

Previous article: Consumer centric innovation – Part IV – sandboxes
Next article: Consumer centric innovation – Part VI – conceptualization

©2010 PackageRepublic.com. All Rights Reserved.