In the interest of making ideas bigger we sometimes add more and more elements until we can no longer articulate the simple core of an idea. It is easy to see how it happens as a team tries to build bigger ideas. I have a couple of approaches to help you break ideas apart and identify the essence of what you’ve created to avoid over-built ideas.
When you create early-stage ideas it is necessary to understand the central proposition and determine whether it connects to a consumer motivation. If your ideas are over stuffed with many extra benefits or features, you obfuscate the selling proposition and may be surprised to find that after much development time and money, the idea ultimately doesn’t sell.
So before you get too far down the road with your idea, make sure the team is clear about the essence of the idea and the motivation it triggers in the customer. It requires restraint to keep from adding extras with the hope that something in the concept will stick when you throw it against the consumer in research. The story ends when it comes time to create the launch communication and you don’t know which dimension of the concept is actually driving consumer interest. The result is a lousy creative brief followed by poor advertising and promotion unless the agency is lucky enough to hit on the essence of the idea by accident. This is not a successful way of working.
Here are a couple of things you can do to identify the core of an idea:
1. Bring the team together and have them each build a visual collage of the idea using pictures cut out from a variety of magazines. What common images or dimensions of the innovation are revealed? The more varied the themes across the individual collages, the less defined the idea is. Use this as an opportunity to discuss and debate within the team to define the core idea.
2. Take over a conference room in your building (somewhere away from visitor traffic) and fill the room with the project—images, timelines, customer feedback and so on. Bring people from outside of your team into the room to explore the project and practice delivering the selling proposition to them. If you struggle to explain why this idea has value, or what you are selling varies wildly based on who is telling the story, then you have not landed on a clear idea. The sooner you find that out the better off the idea will be; hopefully well before it travels through the organization for approvals.
3. If an idea is complicated, break it apart into its various features and benefits and see if you can create three or four ideas out of it. If you can, perhaps you have several products that could be launched sequentially to build a pipeline, rather than rolling all of the features and benefits into one new product. Think about what you are selling in the simplest possible way, just as your customer will.
4. Create a :30-second animation of your idea (cost is around $5,000 or less). Often we think that creating the narrative is the work of the agency, but if you clearly understand the idea you are building, you should be able to show and tell the idea in a simple digital animation. It is also very useful to share for internal communication to build a groundswell of internal support for an idea. Again, if you can’t get the idea down to :30 seconds during the early stage innovation phase, then you don’t have a simple enough proposition yet to warrant significant development dollars to create it. Keep working to hone the idea to something that stimulates consumer action.
Challenge your team to assess the strength and clarity of ideas in the early stage pipeline and discard projects that don’t resonate with the consumer, rather than carrying them along in the name of “we need to show more ideas in the pipeline”. Advancing projects with weak consumer propositions increases your costs and takes the focus off of the projects that can make a difference to the outcome of the business. Ask yourself, “Which projects really matter on your pipeline chart?”
image credit: food&paper & inhabitatt
Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive.