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Shake It Up: Better Outcomes Through "Improvised" Brainstorming

Page history last edited by Dave Nielsen 12 years, 2 months ago

Shake it Up! Achieve Better Brainstorming Outcomes with “Improvised” Techniques

Product Camp Afternoon Session: 2:30 to 3:15PM. April 2, 2011.
Presenter:  Kathy Klotz-Guest, of Keeping it Human. Kathy@keepingithuman.com  Twitter: @kathyklotzguest
Session Intro-
Fun and play are key ingredients to ideation and innovation. Improvisational tools that allow us to play also strengthen our ability to see the new in the ordinary. Improvisation means, in the moment, saying “yes, and!” to new ideas by building on them, suspending judgment (no “no’s” or “buts” allowed!), and being willing to drop all assumptions about what’s “possible.” Improvisational tools are also fun and that helps unleash our creativity. When we approach ideation differently (and not with the same old tools), we break expected patterns of thinking. This allows us to see new connections among sometimes unrelated ideas.  Improvisation also means “improvising” new techniques when the same old methods stop working.
These techniques don’t replace traditional linear approaches; rather, they are meant to complement them so that we think differently, have fun, and see new ideas!  We get stuck when we do the same things over and over. These creative, nontraditional tools will enhance critical lateral thinking skills needed for innovation.
I will introduce 3 fun, creative tools today that you can apply immediately to your work.

Tool 1: S.C.A.M.P.E.R.
Scamper has been around for a while and it can be used to see new ideas for anything: products, services, sales processes, you name it. Goal: to iterate and see new ideas among existing things. Take an existing product, service, etc. and apply SCAMPER. The goal is to change, modify, adjust, rearrange, etc. EXISTING assets to come up with new ideas! Have your team (or solo) go through each letter of the acronym and apply it. You don’t have to do the letters in order!
SCAMPER (acronym) = Substitute, Change, Adjust, Modify, Put to Other Use, Eliminate, Reverse / rearrange
EXAMPLE: Avon Skin So Soft put their product to another use (P) when they discovered the product also made a great skin repellent – and it opened up a whole new market for them. What can you do to Put an existing product to another use? And that’s just one letter from SCAMPER.

Tool 2: Attribute List
Attribute list:  This is a way of seeing connections among features in such a way that we see new product ideas emerge.  You can use this tool with any product, service, idea, process, etc.
To use it: Write down 3-4 attributes headers of the product/service across the top of a piece of paper (these are column headings). Then write down variations of each attribute in each column (these will be the rows under each column). So for example, if the product is a SMARTPHONE, then column headings might include “Battery Life,” “Apps,” “Size/Form Factor,” “Speed,” as examples.  Then, variations under the column “Apps,” for example, include ‘productivity,’ ‘games,’ ‘texting.’ Etc. List out as many attributes one after the other moving down.
Then, recombine attribute variations across columns and see what you end up with that’s new. EXAMPLE: Since internet speed may be a variation under a column, it might be combined somehow with a productivity app under the app column to create a product that tells customers what the speed is and how to fix it. The goal is to mix variations of attributes across columns.
Iterate as many times as possible.  Some ideas will be viable, others won’t – the point is to make these new connections in ways other tools simply don’t allow.

Tool 3: Reverse Brainstorming
This is a method for coming at potential issues indirectly. For example, instead of asking how can we improve this (and that’s not always obvious), ask: “How can we reduce customer satisfaction?”  Then, you make sure that what surfaces are areas you work to improve on. There may be things you are doing to cause a problem and you’re not even aware of them.  Ask really specific questions.
Take the example of a Customer Call Center. Instead of asking, ‘how can we improve satisfaction’, we reverse the statement and ask, ‘how can we reduce customer satisfaction?’  When we come at things directly, sometimes it’s not obvious how to improve them. What *is* obvious, however, is how to make them worse. The answers you get then become things to FIX. For instance, one way to reduce satisfaction is to keep customers on hold too long.  Then, an action item becomes making sure customers are NOT on hold too long.


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