Need to rethink? Head to Monkey Town.

If you’re feeling the urge to rethink any aspect of your business model, product or service, you should head to Monkey Town (http://www.monkeytown4.com/). Monkey Town is dinner-tainment (my word, not theirs) re-imagined for the electronic age, complete with cutting edge modernist cuisine, computer-generated animation, multichannel video and other software-centered art. It’s a moving venue that started in NYC and that now relocates itself approximately every 3 months into different vacant warehouse space in a different city before moving on again – bringing world class chefs and virtual artists along for the ride. In doing so, it reveals a lot about rethinking our own business models, creating intrigue and demand. How so?

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Monkey Town is all about re-thinking the status quo and creating output unique enough to stand apart, yet scarce enough to stimulate its own demand (it’s here…and then it’s gone. It’s cool…everyone’s buzzing about it…but you better get in on it while you can).

If your business (or product or service) needs to reinvent or stimulate new demand in any aspect, there’s a powerful technique you can us to RETHINK in much the same way. It’s called the Great What If Game, and it works like this:
1. Generate a truly random “What If” list approximately 30-40 items long, as in what if we: make it more modern, make it more colorful, add an element of mystery, make it more digital, make it more mobile, make it fit a narrower target, make it cooler, make it simpler, re-position it, add features, make it more swank, create value add, etc., etc., etc.
2. Then, simply apply the list to your situation in order to re-think everything.

In the case of Monkey Town, such re imagining of the status quo (breaking rules along the way) might yield just such results as described above. The question is: are there any elements of your own business model that could use similar re-thought? If there are, define your own status quo – and then make a monkey out of it.

About the authors: Eric Greene & Keith Poulson are principals at Elevation (it’s different up here). We are an innovation firm that specializes in A-Z new product/service/growth strategy development (including guerrilla research, opportunity I.D., brainstorming, concept development, industrial design, prototyping and engineering). To learn more, go to: http://elevationid.com/

Focus groups pretty much suck

The notion that focus groups pretty much suck has crossed your mind.  Only now someone is saying it out loud.  Having spent over two decades in the innovation (new product, new service), marketing, growth strategy, entrepreneurial and industrial design spaces and having sat through countless, mind-numbing focus groups, I’ve learned the hard way.

Here are reasons why the traditional focus group may just be the LAST PLACE ON EARTH to gain game-changing insights into your consumers and their needs:

  • ImageTraditional focus group rooms have are dull, artificial, sterile and have two way glass.  The real world (outside of XXX shops and select Las Vegas venues), doesn’t have two way glass or any of the other features just mentioned.
  • Most groups will have a Bossy-Pants, gotta talk early and often, know it all who sets the tone for the rest of the group.  Regardless of what others think, many respond in agreement with said bossy-pants just to fit in.  Worse yet, others then just shut down altogether.  This toxic stew gains you close to zero in terms of real world, usable insight.
  • People don’t make purchases or decisions in a group that sits around a conference room table.  They think and act alone under real conditions in real settings.
  • It doesn’t help whatsoever that most people have a really hard time telling you exactly what they want in the first place.  If they could, innovation, “the cool factor” and new product/service development wouldn’t be such a damn riddle.  The unnatural, uncomfortable focus group setting only exacerbates this problem.

In summary, if you want to be bored silly, get fat eating too many backroom M & M’s, burn your budget and LEARN LESS THAN YOU SHOULD ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS, by all means continue to rely solely on traditional focus groups.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to be bored silly, get fat or blow money, add in some guerrilla to your research.  Nothing will help you see the challenges, feel the frustrations, gain insights and uncover opportunities faster than spending time with your customers/prospects in natural settings where they actually use products and services, experience brands and live life in real time.

More on this next time.

About the authors: Eric Greene & Keith Poulson are principals at Elevation (it’s different up here).  We are an innovation firm that specializes in A-Z new product/service/growth strategy development (guerrilla research, opportunity I.D., brainstorming, concept development, industrial design, prototyping, engineering).  To learn more, go to: http://elevationid.com/

Here’s To The Crazy Ones

Way back in the stone age days of 1997, Apple Computer came out with a kick ass ad campaign during the launch of the Macintosh. This “Think Differently” campaign rang true then, and it’s still equally powerful today.  Here’s how it went:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

think differentSo while everyone else is telling you why not, nay-saying, resisting, saying “we can’t” or “we won’t” or just being a general all around pain in the you-know-what, just keep telling yourself:STAY CRAZY That is, if you really want to make a difference.

Attention-grabbing vs. wow factor (there’s a big difference)

A lot of celebs seek to grab attention (see Cyrus, Miley or “Kardashian – Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall, Kylie or Kris).  They make outsized noise doing over the top things involving nudity, wrecking balls, giant teddy bears, costumed little people, farm animals and meat suits to get on our radar.  And it works.  For about 15 minutes.  A lot of new products seek to do the same thing. But there is a HUGE difference between attention-grabbing “Whoa” and true “Wow” factor.  And if you want to succeed for more than 15 minutes, you need lasting WOW factor.  What is it and how do you know if you have it?

bikeLook just above.  WOW, right?  Just WOW.  Not made you look, 15 minutes of fame “whoa”, but WOW.  Lasting cool.  “It” factor.  It’s a bitch to develop but not hard to define.  Lasting Wow is deliberately built to reinforce brand, send the right message, with just the right design queues and touches that deliver lasting cool. You know you have it when most anyone in your intended target looks at your new innovation and simply utters the word, ”Wow.”  Not “whoa” like a Miley Cyrus stunt.  But “Wow”.  Whoa is Miley Cyrus, WOW is Adele.

When developing new products, you should research, brainstorm, design and engineer with “WOW”, not “Whoa” in mind. At least if you want your new product to have more than 15 minutes of fame.

Want breakthrough innovation? Be very, very contrary

Don’t think innovation can be forced or pulled out of thin air? Au contraire.  Seriously.  Au contraire.  One simple and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE way to achieve innovation is to be very, very, very contrary.  How?

A GREAT innovation tool we’ve used over the years to achieve real results is called The Great “What If” Game.  Essentially, this brainstorming exercise forces you to look at your situation (product or service) in very contradictory ways by asking a series of “what if” questions.  For example, in looking at your situation, what if we:

  • Modernize it?
  • Make it bigger? Make it smaller? Change its shape?
  • Substitute in something new or unexpected?
  • Make it more hip/cool?
  • Beautify it?
  • Simplify it?
  • Make it thicker?
  • Make it lighter?
  • Make it sexier?
  • Make it more fun?
  • Make it more powerful or potent?
  • Combine it with something improbable?
  • Make it healthier?
  • Make it more indulgent?
  • Make it more personal?
  • Make it more upscale?
  • Etc., etc.

You get the idea.  We challenge you to dream up your own large number of “what if” questions for your product or service. Then, see where it takes you.

Skeptical and don’t think this can really work? Au contraire – here is just a smattering of real world examples of where it has worked (by creating juxtaposition vs. the status quo):

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The moral of the story? Use the Great “What If” Game to zig where others zag, go up to their down, be yin to their yang.  And watch what happens.

Let’s brainstorm! Have any favorite techniques you use to think contrarian or get outside the box? Please share them over here in the comments.

Not just another blog

Just what you and the rest of the world have been waiting for – another blog.

Now before you click over to YouTube to check out the latest keyboard cat videos or TMZ.com to see which celebrity has embarrassed himself yet again (yes, I’m talking to you Snooki, Charlie Sheen and the Kardashians), we’d like to take a minute to tell you why we’re here. We’re here to share our thoughts about product development and innovation with you.

We’re here to help you think of the world in new ways.

We’re here to help you find market opportunities you didn’t know existed.

We’re here to help you uncover insights about your customers that open new doors.

We’re here to share news about emerging technologies, techniques, and trends.

We’re here to champion ingenious research, kick ass brainstorming, great design, elegant engineering and flawless execution.

We’re here to question the status quo.

We’re here to make you think.

And finally, we feel we wouldn’t be doing our job very well if we didn’t at least occasionally make you laugh.

This blog is about passing on our decades of combined new product development and innovation expertise. It’s about opening up a window to our world and sharing insights into our successes and failures. It’s about creating a place where we can start discussions and spark new ideas. It’s about giving you a peek into the diabolical minds of our engineers, designers, strategists and researchers.

What this blog is not about is selling you stuff. It won’t be a shameless self-promotion for our people, the projects we complete, or our latest “proprietary process.”

If you’re interested in what we have to say, bring it on and tell us. If you want to add to the discussion, join in. If you disagree, that’s okay. We only ask that you do so respectfully. You can follow us on Twitter @elevationid or connect with us on Linked In and we’ll let you know when we have new information to share. It won’t be every day (hey, we have projects to complete and clients to make happy). But when we have something we find interesting, we’ll share it with you.

Thanks for taking the time and back at ya soon.