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 ( 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?


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:

Want better research? Get your hands dirty.

Want more out of your research? Get your hands dirty.  Go guerrilla.  Go to where your customers and prospects are are.  Hang out where your target does real things in real-time under real conditions.  This is where you can have casual, comfortable, genuine conversations.  This is where you can walk in the shoes.  This is where your consumers are their absolute selves and act accordingly.  And where you can make observations and gather subtle insights that consumers would never even think to articulate, let alone be comfortable enough to mention in a more sterile or artificial research setting.


By way of example, on a client assignment awhile back, we spent a couple of weeks with dog owners.  We hung out in dog parks, backyards and trails.  We tried products and lived life alongside people and their pets.  We learned a TON by experiencing what consumers experience…and by simply chatting people up.  We also learned by observing subtleties and taking note of the occasional frustrated look on a dog owner’s face…a cringe…a change in body language – things that people never think to say, even when you ask, but that are real.

The result: deeper insights that drove several new product innovations, with incremental national shelf space to match (and competitors who never saw any of it coming).  This can, and has worked with a variety of products, services, technology and start ups in all kinds of settings.  Just show up. Get your hands dirty.  And see what happens.

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:

Lessons from a lone goose

You know how geese tend to run (and fly and gather and poop) in flocks? Well there’s one goose in the field along the road by my house that does things differently.  While the other geese have been hanging out nearby in groups of 10, 20, 30 or more, “Gandolph Goose” (as I’ve named him) just wants to stand alone.  And in doing so, Gandolph the lone goose has taught me some unexpected lessons about innovation and marketing.








Gandolph has been hanging out solo in the field for a couple of weeks now.  Rest assured, he’s healthy, no hurt.  He can fully fly, function and take care of himself.  Yet still he chooses to stand apart from the nearby flock.  And in doing so, the damnedest thing has happened.  I notice him.  Everyone notices him.  People stop in their cars to notice him.  They snap off pictures.  Somebody fed him bread crumbs.  I saw someone else roll down a window to say hi.  There was a little kid who tried to chase him.  even other geese from further down the field stop by to visit. Gandolph lets them hang out for a few minutes, but then moves several yards away to be solo again.

The punch line here? The mere act of separating from the flock…and staying separate…has resulted in our lone goose GETTING NOTICED AND GAINING OUTSIZED ATTENTION while nobody looks twice at the geese in the larger flocks. Doesn’t this same insight apply to your products, services, strategy, marketing, sales efforts, communications, website, user interface, app, promotions, whatever? The mere act of standing apart and staying apart makes you much harder to ignore. And what’s good for the goose is good for your business.





8 things Sochi teaches us about innovation and marketing

So what do the Sochi Olympics teach us?

1. If you build it poorly, your customers will do anything to break free of you.  And  then they will complain.  Loudly.  On social media.

12. Beware of scope creep.  The larger and more elaborate the plan, the bigger the over-runs (and the more hands that come out grabbing for money)

3. Don’t make things so complicated that you forget the simple, important stuff
2 4. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.  For example, don’t promise “an Olympic experience that exceeds China” and then fail to provide clean running water or enough pillows.

5. Bureaucracy, committees and too many meetings are killers of productivity.  If you want to get more done, involve less people.

6. Create positive advanced buzz (and a lot of it).  In the absence of such positive buzz, negative buzz takes over, infests everything and grows out of control.  Next thing you know, everyone is paranoid and nobody wants to visit, pay or watch.

7. Big egos tend to get exposed in ways that turn off your prospective audience

38. The product can speak volumes for itself…if you avoid the above and simply let it shine.


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.

Frankenstein Your Innovation

Is the mad scientist really mad? Not when it comes to innovation.  Because one powerfully effective path to success is to create a monster.

Or for that matter, several monsters. Just to see which version truly gets the intended rise out of the villagers.

By way of explanation: one of the most successful entrepreneurs we’ve worked with was a big believer in experimentation as the most effective means to successful innovation.  It all started with down and dirty experimentation and a whole lot of it. Trying out lots and lots of product concepts in highly informal, grassroots settings.  This meant building a variety of functioning prototypes in all states of being.  And then experimenting on consumers in real life settings to get true gut reactions.   In the end, he sold his household cleaning products company for over $300 million in cash.

Why did this “Frankenstein” approach work? 1) Trying real products in real settings forces consumers into a true gut reaction – they either love your product or they don’t, 2) you get incredibly vivid feedback to evolve your ideas – far beyond the surface level, and 3) it is faster and cheaper than conventional R & D methods.  Plus, let’s face it.  If you throw enough darts at the wall, a few are bound to stick.

So if you want to fast track your innovation, get crazy and create a few monsters. It’s downright scary how well it works.

What Voodoo can teach us about Innovation

Have you heard about Voodoo Doughnut? If not: these doughnut shops, founded in Portland, Oregon, are where people literally line up around the block day and night to get in on what they are serving.    There’s no end in sight to their long lines…or their nationally expanding business.  What makes Voodoo Doughnuts so kick ass? Why are they killing it where so many other doughnut shops struggle? The answers to these questions teach us some key lessons about innovation.


The secret to Voodoo Doughnut’s success? They draw familiar, beloved ingredients from other walks of life and bring them to the world of doughnuts.  Things like bacon.  Oreos.  Cap’n Crunch. Cocoa Puffs.  Peanut Butter.  Nutella.  Etc.  And now…you can love all those ingredients…in some extremely indulgent, unbelievably delicious, unexpected, totally original doughnut combinations.

BApplied to innovation and new products, this technique is called Parallel Universe.  It’s juxtaposition.  It’s familiar and at the same time it feels totally fresh and new.  Architects do it.  Fashion designers do it.  And so do some very sharp new product innovators. Do you?