The word “innovation” may well be the buzzword of the decade. But despite the hype, innovation isn’t just about brainstorming or coming up with big ideas. Sure, ideas are important, but without a process for generating, implementing, testing and refining them, they’re unlikely to have the impact you want.
At the Ad Council, we have embraced innovation as an integral part of our culture as well as for our campaigns, and recently kicked off an internal speaker series focused on topics related to innovation that we’re calling “Splash Talks.” Throughout the year, we’ll bring in an innovator to speak to the Ad Council team about their work. And, in the spirit of shared learning, we’ll be covering each Splash Talk on AdLibbing. Join the conversation at #acinnovates #splashtalks.
Using Open Innovation to Drive Social Impact
For our most recent Splash Talk we were thrilled to host Alisa Ahmadian from Palo Alto-based design firm IDEO. IDEO coined the term “design thinking,” the key principles of which – innovation and collaboration – are critical for companies seeking to develop new products or improve their products, services, processes and strategy.
But how can we apply design thinking to social marketing? IDEO’s solution is OpenIDEO, an open innovation platform that fosters a global community to tackle, in Alisa’s words, “big sticky problems.” Over the last six years, OpenIDEO has hosted more than 40 open innovation challenges, on issues ranging from reducing food waste to re-imagining the end of life experience.
As part of the workshop, Alisa challenged us to brainstorm ideas for an imaginary product using IDEO’s five-step process. Most importantly, each stage was timed to enhance the creative environment – we completed the whole process in about 20 minutes.
Frame Your Challenge as a “How Might We…”
For example: How might we design a useless kitchen product for people who love to buy useless kitchen products? “How Might We…” frames a challenge as an opportunity, by assuming that solutions exist and helping to build community around the issue.
Follow the 7 Rules of Brainstorming
Brainstorming is an essential part of the innovation process, but having some rules in place can help. IDEO follows the 7 rules of brainstorming: to defer judgement, encourage wild ideas, build on the ideas of others, stay focused on the topic, have one conversation at a time, be visual and go for quantity over quality. Another rule to enhance creativity is to write down ideas vs. just shouting them out.
It’s Time to Vote
Once you have as many ideas as you can think of, it’s time to vote. At this stage, ideas aren’t fully flushed out, so it’s important to go with your gut. If you’re working in a group, voting by tally can also be helpful.
Paint the User Journey
Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two ideas, prompts can help you think about the user experience. Who are you designing for? How do they find out about it? How does it begin? What happens next? …and next? How does it end? Our breakthrough idea was a Roomba-esque counter-top vacuum, and by considering each of these questions, we ended up with a much more comprehensive picture of the final product.
Play with Prototypes
IDEO design teams have a rule to never go to a meeting without a prototype. Prototypes can be built from standard office supplies and even the most basic phones now have camera and video. Getting concepts out there early is a great way to validate and bring ideas to life. Here’s an amazing example of a prototype the IDEO team developed for an iPhone app for Sesame Street called Elmo’s Monster Maker.
A Final Thought on Diversity…
While diversity isn’t strictly part of the IDEO five-step brainstorming process, it’s a big part of our culture at the Ad Council and speaks to the power of the OpenIDEO community. Both IDEO and the Ad Council operate in teams, with no more than one person on a team representing each discipline. Diversity of expertise as well as background has been proven to foster creativity, so the next time you’re brainstorming look around and make sure you’re not just talking to the same group. Maybe someone else can bring a different perspective.