Posts Tagged innovation

Why adults should just press pause and play

The word ‘play’ has an interesting connotation these days. While it generally means to take part in something, we more often associate it with children and fun or a time where we are less serious. When we are young, play is seen as necessary for development, growth, socializing and for fostering creativity, yet the idea of play past the point of puberty suddenly becomes a negative or a dirty word, particularly in the workplace.

 

But what if being a little more jovial, light-hearted and maybe even more open minded could mean greater insight, better ideas and even increased productivity?

 

As someone who works directly with people to inspire and spark innovation, the basic concept and benefits of play as an adult is not new to me. In order to get people from different disciplines, backgrounds and organizational cultures to relax into a mindset where they can freely explore their more creative side, you have to engage what is formally known as adult play.

 

But this is just thinking about play in a classical context and relating it to energy release or meeting basic human needs for enjoyment. Play may provide the key to unlock much more. From what I have observed and from further studies in the field, play can lead to a much deeper cognitive development. If we allow for further development and interaction with play as adults, we may just be able to tackle some of the challenges facing modern society.

 

What is play?

 

While I don’t consciously use the term ‘adult play’ when working with people, what we aim to do is to enable adults to lighten up, let go and embrace their inner child without fear of judgment. The practice of play is a vital source of stimulation and relaxation for any person, both mentally and physically.

 

But let’s not get confused about what adult play actually is. It is not sliding down a slippery dip, it is not rolling around with your kids, it is not going to the movies. Adult play needs to be for you, as an adult; an activity that lets you engage the creative side of your brain without censoring yourself. It is a very focused experience that can be done solo or in a group yet ultimately lets you walk away having learned something.

 

Although not a new concept, adult play as a practice is still very formal for adults. We often see it in the form of creative sessions, when you are cooking, painting, doing craft or participating in a class of some kind. While these practices are a good start, they are often performed in secret or private when you are officially taking time out. To really see the benefits, play needs to be accepted into everyday life. Adults need to start ‘living play’.

 

Play is a popular concept among tech companies; think Google. These companies have made the connection between productivity and a fun work environment. Encouraging play at work results in more productivity, higher job satisfaction, greater workplace morale, better teamwork and problem solving.

 

I personally always try to put an element of play into every project I do and every workshop or session I do with clients, be it ideation, insight or innovation. Without this sense of liberation people can struggle to relax, open up or get into the required mindset. When we do tap into this mindset, people can truly be open and feel brave enough to take the strategic leaps that need to happen in order to make a difference to a business.

 

What are the benefits of play?

 

Never before have we lived in such supercharged environments where so much of our attention, time and energy is demanded from all areas of our lives; be it work, family, friends, health, culture or politics. Sometimes our body requires us to just press pause and play.

 

Playing as an adult

From my perspective, the positives of adult play can have vast benefits. On a cognitive level play is known to improve brain function, balance emotion and boost our ability to learn as well as relieving stress and anxiety. I often wonder how many people in business are dealing with this every day, and just brush it aside and consider it normal. If we can find a way to harness play to provide relief from stress and anxiety it will benefit not just businesses, but the community and economy at large.

 

Economically, a surge of creative thinking drives innovation, strategic thinking, and problem-solving, which will result in economic growth and potentially the development of a smarter, more valuable workforce. Socially people will engage more and develop as individuals in a social context, giving the net result of a more socially balanced and connected community.

 

Up until now, I believe play has historically been kept for the more creative types, insinuating that only a certain group of people can tap into this type of innovation or insight. Naturally, I know that not to be true, creativity is not just a talent, it can be taught. As adult play more steadily enters the corporate world through innovation consultants like myself, I believe practice will become far more mainstream. Not only will we benefit from it in our personal lives, as let’s be honest, playing is fun, but we will also see a positive shift in our families, our communities and ultimately the world around us.

 

By Anne Lacey

Founding Partner, antedote

The Value of Kindness

In these turbulent and uncertain times, a little kindness goes a long way to creating brand value.

For disenchanted and disenfranchised millennials, and those who share millennial values, an act of kindness has never been more gratefully received. If brands want to create empathy and connection they would do well by looking at how they can show random acts of kindness to lift the mood right now.

Campden Desk Beer dropped at We Work the day after Brexit.

Campden Desk Beer dropped at We Work the day after Brexit.

This is especially true for brands in categories where ‘mood enhancement’ and ‘affiliation’ are motivations they want to own, so when Camden Town Breweries desk dropped beer samples at We Work Southbank, the Friday after a Brexit which had left We Workers shocked into silence, feeling awkward, confused and embarrassed; there were smiles all round.

But it can be bigger than that. When there is an apparent lack of viable trusted leadership and honesty in politics, to be a leader yourself, who shows compassion, is transparent and essentially acts in a way to build a better feeling world, you can also create a way to differentiate and create life-long loyal fans. Boutique brands in artisan food and drink categories such as Camden Town Breweries and Vinomofo have successfully driven this trend until now. One brand KIND, actually stand for acts of kindness. Their manifesto states ‘Our aim is to make the world a little kinder, one snack and act at a time. One simple belief underpins it all: There’s more to business than just profit’. Now doesn’t that make you want to purchase a second delicious snack?

It is worth highlighting that the sharing economy we live in today values genuine acts, and a focus on others – rather than introspective analysis of internal balance sheets. Brands that get this will win and establish a strong platform to nurture in the long term.

Perhaps goodness or kindness should be a tracked value. Brands that display a genuine interest in being better global citizens, in relation to becoming more financially valuable could benefit from a virtuous circle of ‘betterment’. As we explored in our previous article Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, creating consumer habits drives higher customer lifetime value, allows for flexibility for companies to increase prices, and supercharges growth. If we can make a simple gesture of thought and kindness a habit, we will generate goodwill with customers and create value.

In the meantime, We Work enjoyed the Camden Town Breweries beer drop, and no doubt the brand will stay front of mind next time there is cause to visit the bottle shop.

Smart collar to translate dogs’ thoughts

WhatsYapp Innovation

Ever wondered what your dog is saying?

Well it looks like communicating with your dog will no longer be isolated to scenes from the movies.

Fetch is creating the appropriately named “What’sYapp” – a smart collar and messaging app that tells dog owners what their pet is thinking based on their sounds, movements, and activities. Fetch hopes that “What’sYapp” will help to strengthen pet and owner relationship. The app can helping owners improve their behaviors and routines for their pet’s well-being by better identifying when their pet is stressed, hungry, anxious, etc.

“What’sYapp” is one of 3 “Petnology” innovations from Fetch; the other 2 are called “CatQuest”, an interactive cat playground, and “PetPounds”, which rewards children for proper pet-care behavior.

The use of these motion-sensored wearables to translate the inner thoughts of dogs is not only exciting for pets and their owners but also for researchers in our industry. We see this new step as not only an exciting way to better understand the interesting relationship that consumers have with their pets, but also an exciting way to also get into the heads of other hard to understand segments – like children (see this very adorable footage of a toddler playing hide-n-go seek with a Go Pro strapped to his head).

We look forward to seeing Fetch’s moves to push forward the future of pet technology.

Pour Over Coffee You Brew In The Bag!

TraderJoesBrewCoffee

This Trader Joe’s new pour over coffee that you can brew straight in the bag caught our eye! This fun, innovative, and reusable packaging design is great for when you want coffee on the go (camping, etc.). The company behind the clever packaging concept is Grower’s Cup who provide tea, coffee, and specialty kits (like Irish coffee) in the same innovative style. We love this new way to enjoy the morning cup of joe and will be on the look out for more unique ways to kickstart your busy day.

trader joes coffee innovative

Trader Joes Coffee Innovative Bag

tjbrew6

Drinkable Aromas

organic aromas

Kille Enna, a renowned Danish chef, has developed an innovative line of 7 aromas that you can spray into your glass of water, from “Green Cardamom/Lavender Flowers” to “Liquorice Root from Uzbekistan”. Enna talks about her inspiration to create a scent you can taste in her interview with Munchies:

One day, while I was cleaning out my attic, one title among the piles of cookbooks and old food magazines caught my eye: Perfume. I have no idea who gave me this book, but my passion for complex taste composition and scent led me to open the book. As I began to read it, I didn’t stop for days. Every night, the book swept me away to places like Paris as the main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille—who is ostensibly stalking and murdering young virgins—is on a hunt for the perfect scent. For me, the captivation of the novel was about the sadness of a man lacking his own personal scent and the allure of the question it formulated: How do you capture a scent of that which you love? I recognized my own desire to answer that question, but my history in the culinary arts prevented me from separating olfaction from gustation; scent from taste. So my desire was for more than the creation of yet another perfume. It had to be the taste of a scent.

What do you think of drinkable aromas? What aromas would you want to drink or not drink?

Does texture impact taste? Nendo Chocolate Explores.

Chocolate Textures- Taste
Japanese Design House Nendo created the innovative chocolatetexture last year, which was a collection of nine different types of chocolate made in various shapes and textures- from smooth and rough exteriors to hollow interiors. The idea they were exploring was how shape and texture impact taste.

“…there are many factors that determine the taste of a piece of chocolate. These factors include what country the cocoa comes from, the kind of cocoa, the percentage content, the flavors inside, and the technique of the chocolatier. However, in their new chocolate concept, Nendo decided to put the focus on a different factor: the shape of the chocolate.”

The names of the nine different shapes were inspired by its onomatopoeic word from the Japanese language. You can imagine how biting in the airy “fuwa-fuwa” would bring about a different experience then biting into the spiky “toge-toge” (see below photo).

1. “tubu-tubu” Chunks of smaller chocolate drops.
2. “sube-sube” Smooth edges and corners.
3. “zara-zara” Granular like a file.
4. “toge-toge” Sharp pointed tips.
5. “goro-goro” Fourteen connected small cubes.
6. “fuwa-fuwa” Soft and airy with many tiny holes.
7. “poki-poki” A cube frame made of chocolate sticks.
8. “suka-suka” A hollow cube with thin walls.
9. “zaku-zaku” Alternately placed thin chocolate rods forming a cube.

innovative chocolate names

This year, they continued their explorations and recently released chocolatetexturebar, which is a chocolate bar divided into 12 very unique patterns. The idea is that the consumer gets to experience a new taste dimension based off the distinct textures of each piece.

“The design of the bar caters to the different parts of the tasting experience, nendo explains. These include the stage of “bite,” “roll in mouth,” and “swallow,” By including different textures, the bar addresses each stage of this process for a heightened experience.”

These chocolatey perfections are also available in milk, strawberry, white, bitter, and matcha. We look forward to more of nendo’s sensory explorations.

chocolate texture bar

innovative chocolate bar 1

Innovative chocolate bar

innovative chocolate bar

The Future of Food with Tyler Florence: 3 Innovation Implications

Future of Food with Tyler Florence

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Future of Food—a salon hosted by Restauranteur Tyler Florence, and part of the great Inforum Series put on by the San Francisco Commonwealth Club It was a great salon session, that brought together the likes of:

Megan Miller, Co-Founder, Bitty Foods (alternative protein sources)
Adam Zbar, CEO, Sun Basket (alternative food choices and distribution channels)
Dr. Lauren Shimek, Food Scientist, IDEO (food scientist)
Douglas Gayeton (architect of local food systems)
Janet Hayes, President, Williams-Sonoma (gourmet food and kitchen essentials retailer)

As the topic was the Future of Food, you can imagine that there was a lot of interesting conversation around sustainability, business models, and trends.

However, the key takeaway from all of it was:

At no other time in history have we asked the consumer to not only know so much about their food, but to educate themselves.

This has three big innovation implications:

The role of sustainability

Sustainability was a hot topic through out the conversation. And considering the fact that the US wastes 40% of its available food supply ($165 billion dollars worth of food), and we use 2500 gal of water for every pound of beef we grow, you can see why. While many companies may be doing something to help promote sustainability it’s either unnoticed or not enough (see the petition vs. Nestle).

This begs the question—what role does sustainability have in the future of labeling and claims? Could it be the new organic/natural?

Consumer education in food

Because consumers are asked to take such a big role in educating themselves on food, (Douglas Gayeton had a great anecdote about a young student who couldn’t recognize what an organic carrot looks like out of the ground) it’s created a lot of consumer needs.

  1. Adam Zbar claims much of the success of Sun Basket (ingredient delivery, much like Blue Apron) to the fact that people just don’t know HOW to cook a great meal, not just the fact that they’re time crunched.
  2. Janet Hayes made a great point that the big opportunity that grocers keep missing has nothing to do with product, but service. Having some mechanism to help people actually know what to do with everything they’re buying (another big factor in food waste).
  3. Lauren Shimek discussed the potential implications of smart packaging—a simple concept where your packaging would help inform you of when food is about to go bad.


All of this leads us to one big opportunity—how do we get not just more information into the hands of consumers, but useful information in the hands of consumers?  If they can’t do anything practical with what you’re telling them, it doesn’t matter.

More solutions, not more things

The future of food doesn’t necessarily need more “things”, it needs more solutions. The forum talked a lot about the great new innovations in food—however none of them were necessarily new products, but creative/scrappy solutions to challenges facing the industry, a couple of good examples.

  1. Megan Miller (one of the speakers) created Bitty Foods in response to the need for a more sustainable protein source (again…2500 gal of water for a pound of beef, 250 gal for a pound of soy, but only 1 gal for a pound of cricket protein). While the thought of cricket flour might seem off putting at first, Tyler Florence made a point that in the foreseeable future beef will be a luxury item (we’re already seeing the rise of the $60 fillet in restaurants)
  2. Beelocal is a company that everyone seemed to love. It’s a sustainable honey company that plants and maintains beehives on the rooftops of ordinary houses and businesses in the community. In return the house gets free honey, and Bee Local creates a sustainable colony.
  3. Alternate (to restaurants) food options like meal delivery, CSAs, and of course food trucks have created a new business model that, as the cost of starting a restaurant becomes more prohibitive, keep us flush with great food. And, beyond that, they also solve a real need in sustainability by creating easier avenues to connect smaller farms with consumers.
  4. Tyler and co also sang the praises of Ben Jacobsen, founder of Jacobsen Salt Company in Portland. Self-taught salt maker Jacobsen started his company in harvesting salt by collecting sea water in buckets, and literally built an empire by hand. Jacobsen Salt Company is sustainable, and a great alternative to the salt from overseas, notablyvbeing the first to harvest salt in the Northwest of USA since Lewis and Clark.


So, as we think about the future of food, we have to ask ourselves—what are the big needs that are starting to arise in the creation, distribution, and consumption of food, and what are the creative ways that we can create real solutions?

Can technology help people cope with death?

Angel Innovation

We’ve seen great movements towards designing new tools and technology to improve aging and the end of life experience for the generation of baby boomers­­; But how can technology and design aid those who are left behind after their loved one has already passed?

After the recent passing of my grandmother and uncle, I’ve observed the different ways different people grieve and cope with death.  One thing for sure is that death affects and changes you.

In the tech world, I have seen some interesting and borderline creepy innovations pop up surrounding the aftermath of death. For example, Eterni Me allows you to become virtually immortal, allowing loved ones to Skype an AI version of yourself built on your social media data that mimics your look and mannerisms.

The concept of talking to “dead people” is a bit unnerving to say the least, however I recently came upon this start-up that allows your to connect with your loved one beyond in a more charming style similar to the movie, PS I Love You, and the viral tear-jerker Medium article, When I’m Gone.

Safe Beyond allows their users to record messages that will be sent to their loved ones posthumously, like a digital time capsule.  They can be sent on special dates and can also be geo-tagged so recipients can receive them at certain locations. As illustrated in their video (below), a father can record a digital message that will be sent to his daughter on her wedding day, knowing he will not be there to walk her down the aisle. In this way, the deceased can still be present with their loved ones.

Safe Beyond’s site opens with a quote from the late Steve Jobs’ well-known Stanford commencement speech on the truths of dying and living.

And I’ll leave you with that.

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.

And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” – Steve Jobs

LEVIT8: The Portable Standing Desk

Levit8 innovative standing desk

As people are becoming more aware of the harmful health effects of sitting too long at work, people are looking for alternative solutions and one popular one is the standing desk. Standing desks however are expensive, costing from $600 to $100 and taking up a lot of space in the office and at home. In response to the lack of options, many independent innovators are attempting to create cheaper, portable, and effective standing desks.

I’ve seen many interesting, solid solutions to the standing desk (from Lift Top’s Sit-Stand, the minimalistic Altostand, and the StandStand), but when it comes to true ease and portability, none of them had really nailed it, until I saw the new design of LEVIT8 on Kickstarter.

The LEVIT8 is stain-proof and slimmer than a Macbook Air, but carries 20x more than its own weight. It’s origami inspired design allows the stand to be folded up into a slim book, making it easy to carry around with you and store. There are no multiple parts or unnecessary assembly at all.

It’s appeal is evident as they had reached their target of $4,000 in only 2 days and have currently surpassed their goal 13x over.

Their fundraiser ends this Friday, so show your support for this truly innovative design!

Innovative Color Changing Skirt

It’s always fun to scroll through Kickstarter to see new interesting products people are creating, and seeing the interest in them by viewing the number of pledges committed. Crowdsourcing pledge platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are ripe with new innovations and ideas that expand the imagination.

One recent innovation that caught my eye was this color-changing skirt by Chamelyo.

The skirt can be transformed into another style/color in a blink of an eye and a flick of the wrist. It’s a combination of traditional origami and more modern design techniques.

There has been much hype with the merge of fashion and tech- and few have really nailed it down. Much energy has been spent in embedding tech into our apparel from our watches to our socks to our bras, with many companies slapping on NFC, Bluetooth, or other sensors and calling it innovative smart clothing.

So it’s always refreshing to see a type of innovation that is actually tech-free and focused more on the design approach itself. This whimsical skirt feeds into the desire of the modern fashionista for new, fast looks, and I am excited to see what’s next in their playful line of color-changing products.

When did you last innovate your innovation approach?

Creativity Innovation

The old adage, ‘Standing still is the fastest way of going backwards’, feels more true than ever: whether it’s daily Facebook visits passing the 1 billion mark, 24/7 news across your devices, Google’s driverless cars or the Internet of Things… the world we live in is changing rapidly and often unpredictably.  In line with this, marketing challenges are becoming more complex too: brands need to play by different rules to be successful and it’s tougher than ever for new products to launch and still be around a year or two later.

It’s more than just a little strange then that our industry doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the times… and particularly strange that this is true of our approaches to innovation, where surely we have a real permission (and a need) to innovate?  In reality though it seems to be the same formula for innovation: an inputs to workshop to concepts model that is often linear, often slow and often dependent on a select audience of consumers where there’s a risk of killing ideas either too early or too late in the process.

So how innovative is your approach to innovation?

Here are 5 key questions to ask yourself.

  1. Are you ‘thinking big’ when it comes to all the possible data sources that are open to you?

    Whatever category you’re in, there is an increasing volume of data that exists in the ether, just waiting there to be tapped, mined and distilled into useful perspectives and ideas on where to go hunting.

    Social listening can be a valuable start-point to enrich your foundation of learning. While you need to ensure you’re targeting the right conversations in the right places – otherwise forget trying to get a meaningful ‘signal’ – listening in on what people are talking about in relation to your category or its adjacencies can build a powerful and often unexpected picture.

    As a case in point, we extracted over 200,000 online reviews about health and wellness products and used our Review Mapping tool to identify 12 connected opportunity platforms to investigate further: a number of them were in overlooked areas felt to be already well catered to. Since then a number of ideas have been developed and tested, with a large majority being judged as ‘outstanding’ in BASES testing.

  2. Are you getting the true picture?

    Getting to consumers’ less rationalised ‘System 1’ responses has been an ambition of the industry for some time now. While traditional focus groups can be guilty of lapsing into traditional question and answer patterns that are more ‘System 2’ in nature, learning can be deepened with creative techniques, such as metaphor elicitation, or projective and enabling techniques specifically designed to get to deeper motivations and undeclared needs. If you have the freedom to go digital, then mobile ethnographies give you the license to be truly with consumers in the moment, and in this respect are a fantastic tool to get real world perspectives and often more of an unfiltered perspective on what’s important.

    At Antedote we’ve also being embracing the opportunity to use wearables and sensory tech to help explore the actual picture: our ‘Quantified Self’ approach incorporates data yielded from apps and biometric devices to explore new perspectives. Often the gap between what consumers think they do and what they do are what’s most illuminating and a great start point for innovation.

  3. Are you able to get rapid feedback from consumers along the journey?

    Waiting for weeks or even several months for consumer feedback can slow down the innovation journey to a juddering standstill – it’s not just about clients rarely having the luxury of time in today’s marketing landscape, it’s also that those key stakeholders start to get distracted by other initiatives and momentum is simply lost.

    Today we have more tools open to us that enable us to explore ideas in short, sharp, rapid ‘bursts’; ensuring we’re building on them quickly and iteratively. Our recently launched Idea Accelerator tool is already proving a real value-add: in some markets we can begin to get real time feedback on early innovation ideas in as little as 60 minutes after that Ideation Workshop wraps up. We use it to both prioritize ideas and get an early read on how they can be optimized – and being a digital tool you can even get reaction to packaging concepts and other visual support.

  4. Is your idea ‘digi-ready’?

    In today’s digital world it’s only natural that innovation briefs have a digital component, or of course can be the sole focus of your innovation. A visual mock-up of a website or app goes some way in bringing to life how an idea will look and feel, but interaction is often more telling. Digital prototyping is increasingly featuring at some point along the innovation journey. Antedote’s approach to digital prototyping allows you to build in user journeys and uncover learnings for optimization built around user experience.

  5. Are your deliverables harnessing the potential of the digital space?

PowerPoint continues to survive as the main vehicle for a debrief… but often falls short when it comes to selling ideas onwards and upwards within the organization. For innovation in particular we’ve heard instances of ideas needing to be pitched via other means, or clients running the risk of being shown the door. It goes without saying that the digital world offers many means to bring to life desired ideas and experiences in powerful ways: interactive websites, apps, consumer journey films and prototyping are just examples of more powerful ways to get the message across.

So how do these 5 questions leave you feeling about your approach to innovation?

If a little bit nervous, then we believe that’s a good thing: it’s an exciting but uncertain time to be in the world of marketing and this means our innovation approaches need to involve putting one foot forward into the unknown, experimenting and doing things differently… so a little apprehension is a sign of being inventive and moving forward.

So let’s not default to the known and the familiar.  Let’s be bold and be brave. Let’s discover the new.

Image Credit: cc Parker Miles Blohm

Amazon Dash – What does the one-click mindset mean for your brand?

Amazon is reinventing the shopping experience again with the Amazon Dash.

If you haven’t heard, Amazon Dashes are tangible $5 buttons (for Prime members) that you can stick anywhere, and when pressed, the buttons will automatically order and ship a single specific product to you.

Stick a Tide detergent button next to your washing machine. Or a Charmin button next to your toilet. When you’re running low, you no longer need drive out to the grocery store or even take out your phone to make a purchase, but just press the button without a second thought.

This is Amazon’s innovative approach to leveraging the internet of things to simplify the shopping experience, to bring the digital one click ordering to the physical world, and to create mindless habits that keep customers loyal to them.

It has become apparent that Amazon Dash, along with the slew of “do-it-now” apps from Uber to Instacart, is completely changing consumers’ expectations for their companies.

No matter what industry you are in or what service you offer, consumers will more than ever expect an instant and frictionless experience, much like the one-click apps they use on their phones.

Ease of use and convenience is no longer a ‘good thing to have’ but a ‘must have’. And you must deliver beyond that to keep your customer – for they are less patient and more ready than ever to go to another website or another app that is faster and more intuitive.

So how well do you know your consumers’ journey and the pain points they are experiencing?

Do you know when they use your product differently than intended? Do you know all the pain points that your consumers’ experience when they interact with your brand?

Where can you remove friction? Can you reduce 2 steps into just 1? Is there a point where the consumer would have to exert themselves to make a decision? How can you make the interaction more ‘mind-less’? How can your brand deliver something delightful that your customer did not expect?

By delving into your consumers’ journey, you can innovate your product or brand to meet the expectations of their “once-click” mindset.

3 Lessons on Innovation from The Martian

3 Lessons in Innovation from The Martian

Everyone is talking about the latest sci-fi thriller, The Martian, which stars Matt Damon (Interstellar, The Departed), is directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) and is adapted from Andy Weir’s novel about Mark Watney, a marooned astronaut who uses all his wit and ingenuity to survive on the inhospitable Mars.

The sci-fi movie is being heralded for being more science than fiction, having consulted extensively with NASA and having featured scientifically accurate technology so real and feasible that movie-goers thought the movie was based on a true story.

I was blown away at how beautifully the movie was done and relieved that it lacked the cliche scenes typical in space blockbusters.  You won’t find the super smart astronaut doing ironically non-super smart astronaut things. You won’t find an astronaut glancing through his rocket ship window at the little blue dot called earth with somber commentary on human insignificance. And you won’t find any overly science-y jargoned explanation between scientists that only confuses the audience more.

What you will find is a pure survivalist tale that illustrates the power of human perseverance and collaboration to do brilliantly innovative things. And it will sure make you feel proud to be a human Earthling.

So here are 3 lessons on innovating for you Earthlings out there from The Martian. (Caution: Some spoiler alerts- so go watch the movie before you read this!)

To innovate, reframe and solve the right problems, one at a time

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it…Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work… You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

This was probably one of the best quotes from The Martian. It leaves you feeling that nothing is really impossible or hopeless. Although faced with terrifying circumstances, aka being stranded hundreds of millions of miles away from any other living human, Watney reframed his situation and focused on solving the problems at hand, one by one. And by doing so, he kept his sanity and ultimately his life.

For Watney, the big question was “How do I survive on Mars?” – which sounds like a completely impossible scenario.  But Watney began breaking down the question into smaller, more solvable problems that he began to work out one after the other. “How do I grow enough food?” “How do I make water?” “How do I communicate with Earth?”

Of course our own big questions we ask about our own business and products may not be as life threatening (though we think it may be) – but they are often questions that feel too abstract or too complex to solve. By reframing your problem into tangible challenges – you can and will be able solve for the seemingly impossible.

To innovate, incorporate diverse perspectives and be open to collaboration

A beautiful moment in The Martian took place when the directors of CNSA (China National Space Administration) discussed whether to postpone their own mission by offering their Taeyang Shen space probe rocket to the US to help them retrieve Watney or to simply remain silent, free from repercussions since the rocket was classified information that no one knew about. Ultimately, in the name of science, they decided to reach out and help their fellow scientists.

How often do we look outside our own industry? (If you’re in financial services or healthcare, what can you learn from CPG or the tech sector?)
How often do we look outside at what other cultures are doing? (What can US companies learn from the success of Chinese products and companies?)

Often we can be narrow minded and blinded by our own expertise and knowledge in a field. However it’s diversity and collaboration that fuels innovation, which is one of the reasons why we take our insight and innovation clients on ‘safaris’ to gain inspiration from lateral industries and cultures, to open up their mind in a way that their office desk can not. It is through this exposure of diverse thoughts and perspectives that we can achieve great things.

To innovate, welcome humor

I admit it’s fatally dangerous, but I’d get to fly around like Iron Man.

This great line by Watney during one of the most suspenseful, and even ludicrous, scenes in the movie had me smiling from ear to ear, even though I was also clenching my fists in anxiety. The Martian is such an intense thriller, but it smartly keeps lighthearted with refreshing quips by Watney – which brings me to the power of humor.

Studies have shown that humor can help in ideation and creativity, allowing for more eureka! moments. Even brainstorming the ridiculously exaggerated of the imagination could help you to break out of your linear way of thinking by allowing the mind to associate new ideas/relationships more freely- and ultimately lead to more plausible solutions you wouldn’t have thought of before – and if you’re Watney- save your life.

The Martian was an uplifting story and a remarkable demonstration of human ingenuity, offering great lessons even to those who aren’t stranded in space. To all the innovators out there on Earth- take note.

Mart Watney Innovating GIF

Image Credit: IndieWire

NGMR Disruptive Innovator Award 2015: Finalist

Next Gen market Research Disruptor Innovator Award 2015 Finalist
We are thrilled that Antedote has been selected as one of the finalists for the NGMR (Next Gen Market Research) Disruptive Innovator Award. Our latest tech tools Idea Accelerator and Social Data Mapping have been shortlisted under Innovative Research Deployment and our very own Anne Lacey has been shortlisted under Individual Achievement.

The NGMR Award recognizes companies and individuals that have demonstrated outstanding leadership as change agents and made significant contributions to harnessing disruptive innovation to drive research industry progress.

We look forward to hearing the winners announced at The Market Research Event in Florida in November.

The Future of Fast Food is Serverless

Eatsa - Cubby - Food Innovation

There has been much hype around Eatsa, the newly opened futuristic restaurant in San Francisco’s Financial District (FiDi), having appeared on major outlets like TechCrunch, Fast Company, NPR, TIME, and NYT.

So of course I had to go eat there myself.

When I walked into Eatsa during my work lunch, I saw no cashiers, but instead 8 iPads lined up on the walls.

Using an iPad, I selected my order from a variety of $6.95 vegetarian quinoa bowls (I could even choose to customize a bowl from scratch if I had wanted). After swiping my credit card to pay through the iPad, I stood on the side to wait for my name to appear on one of the cubbies, where my ordered dish magically appeared behind the transparent LCD screen.

No servers, no busboys, no cash needed.

Here are my favorite things about my Eatsa experience:

  • Alternative form of protein
    • In a world highly concerned about how we feed and treat animals for consumption, Eatsa eliminates meat from their menu, offering only vegetarian dishes that use quinoa as its core source of protein. The menu lists how many grams of protein each bowl contains. Being a meat lover, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the meat-less bowl and how full I was from it.
  • Fast
    • I hate long lines. Especially during workday lunches at noon where all the good places in FiDi are overcrowded with professionals. I just want to go in and out. Eatsa is perfect for the working professional who don’t have time to wine and dine. Although the line was super long when I first visited (because of its recent launch and attention and a tech hiccup), I did receive my order literally within minutes after finally placing it in the iPad.
  • Cheap but healthy
    • I can usually spend around $12 for a typical lunch out during my workday. So the hearty $6.95 quinoa bowls at Eatsa are absolutely dirt cheap here in San Francisco. And they are super healthy. My Teriyaki Bowl was 488 calories, contained 24g of protein, and was filled with scrumptious ingredients: stir fry-style quinoa, edamame, crispy wonton strips, teriyaki sauce, miso portabello, and apple-cabbage slaw (Check out their other items). Rejoice for cheap and healthy options that make your tongue sing!
  • No cashier
    • Because you place and customize your order on the iPad yourself, any possible confusion or mistakes by the middleman cashier is removed. This isn’t the first time food delivery have removed that middleman human interaction. Japan have shokkenki food ticket machines as well as food vending machines that can dispense ready made baked goods to hot meals, and Amsterdam has their 24 hour FEBO Wall of Food. Also in the 1900’s, the US had popular automats by Horn & Hardart that took coins. However, I think Eatsa does a great at adding a last element of magic that makes the experience possibly better than anything before it.
  • Magical
    • With the lack of servers around, you may expect Eatsa to feel cold, impersonal, and well…automated. But they did a great job of creating a very friendly and approachable environment that felt quite magical, from the cute animations that wiggled on the LCD screens, to seeing your own name and food “magically” appear in a very sleek futuristic looking cubby, minutes after ordering. (Check out the video below to see it work)

 

Automation has definitely transformed many industries, and one could ask if the dining experience should be one of them? At what point would the speed and efficiency that automation provides not be worth more than the actual human interaction? That would be a careful thing to explore. I could see the benefits of speed/efficiency being less important in settings where the intimate ambience and conversation are sought – such as a during romantic dinner for two where a courteous waiter talks you through all the different specials of the day and answers your questions.

But again, given its location, hours, and type of food, Eatsa clearly isn’t for that.

By taking note of their target consumers’ needs as well as leveraging existing technology, Eatsa has successfully created a fast, efficient, and charming way to deliver food for the working professionals in the FiDi, who want inexpensive, fast, healthy food that they can just grab and go.

We look forward to seeing if Eatsa will be the catalyst for more cashier-less restaurants. How will other new fast food joints and casual restaurants leverage technology to innovate themselves?

Eatsa - Fast Food Innovation

Eatsa - Food Innovation

Harnessing immediacy for a better future

financial services trends

Money is continually the number 1 reported stressor in the lives of Americans according to the American Psychological Association, and yet financial planning is often set aside in favor of ‘want it now’ pursuits such as trendy restaurants and weekend getaways. It feels like there is never enough, what you have tends to evaporate to unknown places and it’s confusing to figure out who’s advice to take.

As money moves squarely into the digital realm, finances are communicated via numbers on a digital screen, which begs the question: how can we make finances feel real and immediate when it’s less of a physical thing these days?

Saving and spending habits have become visible and trackable by category in one dashboard through services such as Mint and Goodbudget. College graduates can receive smart forecasts and recommendations on how to pay down debt from multiple sources in a way that works for them through Tuition.io.

‘Nudge’ behaviors are being increasingly integrated to help consumers action on things they know are good for them: Acorns and Digit help you save without even realizing it by automatically squirreling away smaller pockets of money for you, causing huge future effects once compounding is taken into account.

Digital services are morphing into digital advisors that proactively and intelligently make more tailored suggestions than ever before. LearnVest harnesses the visualization benefits of technology as well as the ‘human touch’ of a real person for personalized financial planning. To make the future painfully real (trust me, I tried it), Merrill Lynch invites you to watch yourself physically age on screen through Meet the Future You to make you realize that your youth will fade away over time.

Several tailwinds are pushing towards this ‘immediate finances’ future: consumers are increasingly seeking transparent advice and direction, accessing all the information they need in their pocket and expecting services to help them visualize the meaning behind the numbers.

At the same time, there a couple of headwinds and ‘watch outs’ for businesses: consumers are wary of giving up their personal data, especially of the highly sensitive kind, and are skeptical that financial services companies have their best interest at heart. They seek reliable gatekeepers that will provide impartial advice without pushing towards certain products—the same way you might seek a personal stylist instead of asking a store’s sales associate how a sweater looks on you.

Opportunities exist to tie savings even more to tangible and aspirational financially-related goals such as being able to travel X number of days in retirement, being able to contribute to your grandchild’s college fund and saving enough to start your ‘second act’ as a florist. If consumers can truly feel tomorrow’s challenges, they are more likely to make tradeoffs today.

Export Your Memory to the Cloud – Courtesy of Google

Google Search Life

When I saw what Google was up to, my mouth dropped at how fascinatingly creepy life was headed.

Google recently filed a patent for glasses that would record and index your real life experiences, export them to the cloud, and allow you to search them later.

Yes, you could ask questions like “What movies did I watch last month?” Or “What paintings did I see when I was on vacation in Paris?” and voilà. There your answer would be. It’s Google for life itself.

For those of you familiar with the Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series (my favorite tech dystopian TV show), this is literally one step in the direction of the 2011 Episode 3, Season 1, The Entire History of You, which because of it’s popularity, is now slated to come out as it’s own sci-fi thriller.

The episode follows a man whose implant allows him to capture his entire life, with the ability to play back and zoom into any moment in front of his eye or on a shared screen. The technology brings up various ethical, philosophical, and psychological issues, from privacy, machine/human boundaries, memories used as weapons, and the importance of memory’s malleable nature for our emotional and psychological well-being.

Despite the grim possible futures elaborated on in Black Mirror, there are many places where we can see how searchable memories can prove to be useful in the near and the more distant future.

Eye Witness Accounts
As we know now, eye-witness accounts are horribly unreliable, proven to be susceptible to false memory and misidentification, leading to almost 70% of wrongful convictions. What if during court, you could just rewind to the eye witness’s memory of the particular incident as opposed to relying on their testimony?

Security
If there was a building break-in, instead of asking every guard during the shift of the incident to recall if they have seen anyone who fits this certain profile, investigators could simply search the faces of everyone who had entered the building from 7pm-9pm and fit the particular description, making it easier and faster to identify potential suspects, as well as the criminals themselves.

Home Care
“Where did I last put my keys?” This new technology could aid the elderly or those suffering from memory problems from disease or injuries to be more autonomous in their daily life.

Education
A classmate could export and transfer his memory from a class or workshop to a fellow classmate who is out due to the flu. Recordings of lectures are already provided by many universities to their students to learn remotely. Curious students could also search and view memory clips of professionals in interested fields to get a real life glimpse into their day and life.

Market Research
Researchers are great at collecting and synthesizing data from different places (whether it’s from surveys, social media, or from face to face interviews) and then extracting meaningful insights to inform business strategies.  Imagine how much deeper and more quickly researchers could dive if they were able to sift through a wide variety of footage taken of consumers during digital ethnography, getting that qualitative richness and depth at big data speed and scale.  We’ve already seen existing technology being leveraged to speed up the research and innovation process, such as with mobile surveys, web cam interviews, and agile online tech tools like our own Idea Accelerator.

Google has been at the forefront of many exciting and innovative initiatives, from their self driving car to Google Glass to Project Loon. And like how Google Search online has completely transformed the way we work, think, and live (for good and for worse), it will also be fascinating to see how a Google Search for real life will transform not only the many industries in which we work but us as humans (for good and for worse).

Target’s Smart Home

Smart Home 2

Smart devices are everywhere you look. You can get anything from the well-known Nest thermostat and Sonos speakers to the Philips Smart Light Bulb, Mr. Coffee WeMo Enabled Smart Coffeemaker, and Parrot plant waterer.

And although we see and hear about these smart products everywhere, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and intimidated to actually use them. Demand for smart products actually dropped by 15% this year, according to August Insights, showing the market has still not yet infiltrated the mainstream.

In an effort to make smart devices more accessible to consumers, Target opened up a futuristic concept home by the San Francisco Metreon to showcase how all their different smart products can talk to each other to make a better morning, evening and well, life, for you.

I recently stumbled into the experimental space they call Open House, with its beautiful transparent acrylic walls and furniture that really highlight the devices.

Each room has a tablet which you can choose from a variety of hypothetical scenarios that will play out, showing you how the devices work together. In one “morning” scenario, the baby starts waking up earlier than usual. The smart baby monitor Mimo then triggers the parent’s phone in another room to vibrate to wake her and get the baby as well as signals the coffee maker in the kitchen to start a cup of joe.  How much nicer of a morning would my parents have had if these devices could talk to each other like that? I’m not a parent yet myself, but I have high hopes for how connected devices will surely help me with the joys and tribulations of future child rearing.

Target will take their learning’s from the way consumers interact with the products in the smart house as insight for future sale strategies.  Hopefully Target’s efforts will be one of many that move our generation away from the seemingly excessive connected-hyped world, to one that can truly leverage the potential of the internet of things to create more seamless life-enhancing experiences.

Smart Home 4 Innovation

Smart Home 7 InnovationSmart Home 1

Innovating for a New Breed of Business Travellers – Part 2

In our previous blog post, we looked at three ways companies are innovating to capture the hearts and budgets of a new generation of business travelers. This week, we’ll take a look at two more ways the industry is getting a refresh in the last part of our 2 part blog series.

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Image Credit: Hotel Chatter

Are you traveling for business or pleasure?

Well, why not make the best of both?

A business trip to Europe you say? Fantastic, let’s book some personal days to enjoy a Paris detour on the backend of that corporate trip.

You aren’t alone in combining some personal vacation with your business travel. In fact, 83% of travellers use time on business trips to explore the city they’re visiting, with nearly half adding personal travel days to their business trips, according to a report from Bridgestreet Global Hospitality. Great news for the travel industry!

Built with ‘Bleisure’ in mind

“Bleisure” is the growing global trend in the travel industry as the worlds of business traveling and leisure traveling blur.

How is the hospitality industry leveraging this trend?

Hyatt Centric has done a great job serving as a basecamp to their guests’ city excursions. They have defined a clear target audience: Wish-Listers, who want to experience a destination’s iconic activities. In response, Hyatt Centric lobbies feature areas defined as “The Corner” with books and magazines that provide insight into the local destination.

virgin hotel petsImage Credit: ChicagoParent.com

Many hotels are also recognizing that guests enjoy travelling with their pets, to bring a piece of comfort and home on their trips. Enter programs like Kimpton Hotel’s Very Important Pets and W Hotels’ Pets Are Welcome (P.A.W), offering plush pet-bed loaners in your guest room, food, water bowls and mats, and a concierge list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants, parks, groomers and pet boutiques. The recently opened Virgin Hotels also has pet-friendly rooms, complete with a dog statue outside the door to watch over you.

Common Clubs Innovation SpaceImage Credit: Upgrd.com

The Bleisure movement is also reshaping how we design communal spaces. Hotels are providing a new type of multifunctional space for teams to work, socialize, or just people watch. Virgin Hotels’ Commons Club is a dynamic hybrid of bar/lounge, laid-back study and restaurant with a private members club vibe, featuring a 24-hour library, social hour, and restaurant all in one.

Breather Travel
Image Credit: Breather

If you’re looking for a new type of meeting space outside of a hotel, Breather is an Airbnb-like app that lets you book a non-typical, home-like space to work, meet or relax by the hour, or for the day. It is available in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Ottawa, and Montreal, with more markets to come.

Convenience maximus pre and post trip

Business travel is taxing, so services that reduce travel stress are more than welcomed. Although hotels have made a good start to up their game to match guests’ demanding expectations for convenience, offering services such as mobile check ins and keyless doors on their trip, other companies outside the hotel industry are providing truly breakthrough solutions to proactively reduce travel frustrations pre and post-trip.

00dufl-5Image Credit: Business Insider

DUFL Virtual closet is revolutionizing the way we prepare for travel by removing the pain of packing, checking in, and lugging around suitcases. For $9.99/month and $99 per round trip, you don’t have to pack anything at all. Your clothes will be shipped to your hotel, then cleaned and stored in DUFL’s virtual closet, ready to be used on your next trip.

The team at Antedote are also using apps to simplify our travel logistics. Egencia (the business arm of Expedia) is an online travel booking platform which can follow customized travel policies to manage travel costs, and has flexible options like day-of-arrival hotel cancellations. Expensify is an app for easy expenses, which lets you pull expense records directly from your credit card account, and photo log your receipts in real time, so you don’t end up with a huge stack of receipts in your wallet when you come back from your business trip.

The fact that a slew of new technology and service companies are popping up to cater to the needs of travelers that typical hospitality providers have not yet catered to before is a wake up call for the hospitality industry to take on a more future-focused and proactive approach to innovation. Rather than focusing on the typical touchpoints every hotel and travel brand is already thinking about, how can we leverage the larger cultural and macro trends at play, which are changing the role of travel in consumers’ lives, and identify new touchpoints to connect with consumers? Through pushing the boundaries of what the industry is ‘expected’ to provide, we can think of new ways to win consumers, fixing problems and creating delight where they didn’t realize they needed new solutions for.

Innovating for a New Breed of Business Travellers – Part 1

Hospitality_innovation_starwood_lab_3
Image Credit: Starlab Tumblr

[first of 2 part blog series]

Part of the perks and woes of my job as a consultant is the frequent travel. It’s the easiest conversation starter that sparks passionate debate with the people I meet. While it definitely helps rack up the loyalty points and has it’s adventurous allure, the reality is that constant travel is grueling, and has been lacking in freshness in recent years. The expectations of business travel have also evolved – with company travel bans and more frugal budgets, the days of decadent schmoozing trips are long gone. The new business traveller, especially millennials, have developed a new set of expectations, and the industry is finally starting to catch on.

Here’s the first of a two part series on the hospitality industry’s much needed innovation refresh.

Buzzworthy, budget-smart

The new business traveller still wants unique experiences that can make work trips more delightful and story-worthy, but they want smart finds that show they are sensitive about the way they spend the company’s money.

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Image Credit: Wired

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Image Credit: USA Today

Jetblue recently launched Jetblue mint, a premium coast-to-coast flight service that got tech execs all excited, even warranting a tweet from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. Boasting lie-flat beds with massage function, a small-plates menu created in partnership with new York restaurant Saxon + Parole, and a take home Birchbox amenity kit, the service is available on two routes: JFK to SFO, and JFK to LAX. Starting from $599, it is stunningly half the price of traditional first class tickets.

Non-traditional players like Airbnb are also targeting the business traveller with its corporate program, a great option for longer trips which give travellers a more home-like experience with kitchen and laundry facilities, which could help companies save in the long run.

New Millennial lifestyle brands

Innovation_Hospitality_Milliennial_Lifestyle_1
Image Credit: Aloft Hotels

The big hotel brands are also taking notice of the shifting landscape, launching new lifestyle brands with the millennial traveler in mind, such as Hyatt Centric, AC Marriott, Aloft hotels, Radisson Red, and Canopy by Hilton – all of them aiming to become destination hubs for both locals and visitors, featuring convenient locations, bold, modern design and technology, cocktail culture and mingling spaces, with special attention on health and wellness. They are a welcome breath of fresh air for those looking for an alternative to the usual expensive, overly corporate and stuffy, dated options.

Co-creating with a tech-fluent generation

It’s accepted now that the modern traveller is tech-obsessed and always connected. What the travel industry is also recognizing is that this techy generation is opinionated, and not shy to share their ideas. Connected guests will not only know all about your brand but will have formed an opinion about your brand way before they even step foot in your door.

So rather than innovate for them, why not innovate with them? Especially with those who are your self-appointed brand ambassadors.

hospitality_innovation_starlab_2
Image Credit: Starlab Tumblr

Take Starwood for instance, who recently launched Starlabs (an innovation incubator space blending design, technology and luxury), where associates, owners, developers, customers and partners can converge and scope out the latest guest technology shaping the hotel of the future, such as keyless entry, BotIr robotic butlers, Oculus bikes, smart mirrors & vanities and more.

Hospitality_innovation_starlab
Image Credit: Starlab Tumblr

Marriott Hotels also launched an online co-creation platform where anyone can submit new ideas, and fellow travellers can vote on which ones are most brilliant. The winning idea of 2014 is a bartenders in residence program, which is now being launched at select Marriott properties.

With the emergence of these new co-creating platforms, hotels are positioned to launch successful experiences that will resonate with their guests.

Stay tuned for the second part of the series to learn other ways that hotels have been innovating hospitality, through bleisure and convenience maximus.

Introducing Idea Accelerator

Idea accelerator GIF - repeat

To sign up for a demo of the Idea Accelerator, click below:

Sign up

We know that exploring and testing ideas and concepts globally can be time consuming and expensive.

That’s why, we created Idea Accelerator, an online platform that allows us to explore and iterate concepts, packaging designs and communications with consumers globally and in real time – so you can accelerate idea development and your innovation pipeline.

This proprietary approach enables us to recruit, quality and interact with respondents in multiple markets concurrently. Using Idea Accelerator we can moderate a detailed discussion with respondents in real time, exploring likes, dislikes and ways to improve and refine an idea or concept. Study participants can interact with visual, written or video ideas or concepts in detail via desktop, tablet or mobile and response data is tagged and captured for analysis and aggregation for each individual idea or concept.

About the Idea Accelerator:

  • Accelerates the innovation process (a multiple market concept study can be done in hours vs. weeks and months with traditional approaches)
  • Identifies specific elements that are working and not working in a idea and concept and why
  • Enables “in the moment” crafting of ideas and concepts with consumers
  • Allows for immediate idea and concept testing and retesting — can get ideas or concepts in front of consumers within the hour
  • Improves success rate in quantitative concept testing
  • Inexpensively enables exploring and testing ideas and concepts in early development
  • Removes the “test, pass, fail and replace” model currently often used to craft concepts
  • Reduces cost of failure

 

At antedote we use proprietary technology and multidiscipline thinking and enjoy partnering with our clients to move their products and services forward, taking ideas from concept through development and launch.

Proud to be part of the GRIT Top 50 Most Innovative Market Research Companies

GRIT50 Innovative Companies
Since 2010, GRIT has tracked which firms are perceived as the most innovative within the global market research industry. This year, we are excited to debut on the 2015 Top 50 List of Most Innovative Companies in Market Research.

Next to the top 50, the GRIT report also digs deep into what top factors influence the perception of innovation by industry professionals, and have found, unsurprisingly, that Methodology, the Cutting Edge, and New Technology rank at the top. With the recent releases of our latest proprietary tech tools, such as Idea Accelerator, we are thrilled to be one of the newest agencies to join the Top 50 GRIT list. You can see the full report with thought provoking commentary by major industry players on what makes a company innovative here.

3 innovation principles we can learn from on-demand expert app Fountain

Fountain

Have you ever found yourself Googling for answers to fix things on your own, or browsing page after page of answers on Quora, only to end up feeling frustrated by the overwhelming amount of (sometimes conflicting and irrelevant) information?

Imagine what you could do if you had live video access to the best experts instantly.

Enter the new Fountain app – a disruptive approach to get expert answers in real time. From the founder of mint.com, Aaron Patzer created Fountain to help you solve any problem in and around your home by connecting you over video chat in about 90 seconds to an expert such as an architect, or appliance repair-person. You would think that this service would be expensive, but at a reasonable $7 for 15 minutes, it’s the perfect compromise between hiring a contractor to come to your home (which could take you back $150-200/hour), and trying desperately to solve a problem by yourself through trawling online forums.

In Patzer’s words, “You can research a lot of this stuff on Google, but if you want to figure out how to stain your deck, it depends on if it’s in Phoenix or Maine, right? There are a lot of times where you need video or pictures and you need a back-and-forth conversation to really hone in on the right answer. That’s where Fountain is tremendously powerful.”

Fountain makes use of some clever success principles that we can learn to disrupt and improve the typical innovation process:

  1. Real-time, content-rich dialogue

Fountain shows us that you don’t need to spend hours on research and pre-planning to get the answers you need, and the power of instant dialogue. If we concentrate feedback windows into shorter bursts, using content rich platforms such as live screen sharing and video, we can access the people we want to talk to instantly and have rich conversations with them to push ideas to the next level quickly with minimum hassle.

  1. Speedy and rich feedback from those who matter the most

Fountain has a vigorous screening process for the experts they engage, so the asker knows they will get help and guidance from the most authoritative people when they post a question. Similarly, if we have a new way to screen consumers in real time using pre-defined criteria, we can kick off consumer conversations on the same day, and be confident we are talking to the right people.

  1. Low risk and low cost

At $7 for 15 minutes, Fountain has cracked a new pricing model that makes it attractive for users to try the service with minimum risk. We know cost is a very real and practical concern for companies who want to test ideas and get feedback with consumers earlier without breaking budgets. We believe the time is ripe for a new business model around idea testing and harvesting – with lower investment, and quicker results.

With $4MM in first round funding already in the bag, Fountain is off to a fantastic start. We look forward to applying these success principles to help our innovation partners get feedback from those who matter in a fast and more effective way. To learn more about our latest platform that leverages these principles to connect with consumers for instant feedback globally and in real-time, explore with the button below.

Learn more

The Paniq Room: Experimentation is the key out

PaniqRoom

Recently, my team found ourselves with only one hour to escape a psychotic serial killer’s apartment before he came home from the bar. Thankfully… it wasn’t real life. Some of us actually went on a team outing to Paniq Room – a live escape game where people are locked in a room to decipher hidden clues to “escape” before the time runs out.

It was an exciting and challenging game where we had to think fast without a lot of direction. None of us knew what to expect when we stepped into the dimly lit apartment with its eccentric paraphernalia and were given absolutely no additional guidance except to escape before the time runs out.

As the door was locked behind us, we realized we had to be scrappy and experimental because there wasn’t time to prepare the perfect strategy. This got me thinking about approaches to uncovering insights to solve tough problems.

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a perfectionist and often don’t share things until they’re past a certain point of being completed. But this experience quickly highlighted how traditional approaches and perfectionism can unnecessarily hinder progress.

In one instance during the lock-in, we uncovered a Sudoku-like puzzle that we had to solve in order to reveal a highlighted code to a locked box.  We had a few guesses to some of the numbers in the code, but I wanted to erase it and start over so it could be done the way I normally approach a Sudoku puzzle. While I was slowly reworking the puzzle, my colleague noticed the very little time we had left and started taking some of the guessed numbers and trying them out on the lock. I didn’t believe that it could work that way, solving Sudoku had to be done in a methodical way, the way I knew it to work. But, before I knew it, she had it unlocked, so we quickly abandoned the puzzle to move onto the contents of the unlocked box to escape the room.

So often in insight and innovation work, we can get hung up on pre-judging outcomes or ideas in closed conference rooms, letting our fear of failure keep us spinning ideas around in our heads and wasting time when sometimes we just simply need to put unfinished ideas out there with consumers to quickly test, adjust, and retest. The “test, pass, fail, and replace” model is no longer efficient.  Constant experimentation is truly key to get out of that trapped box of perfectionism.

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts with consumers globally and in real time, please click below:

Learn more

Cards Against Innovation: What the world’s most offensive party game does right

consumer research cards against humanity

Your users know your product better than you do. Are you accessing and extracting that insight to make your product better? It takes a lot of confidence to put your idea out there, and let your users run with it. That is why I love Cards Against Humanity (CAH). (If you don’t know the game…catch up quickly).

It seems obvious that the best new ideas are going to come from the people playing the game. That isn’t something to be threatened by; it’s something to capture and capitalize on (as CAH did by publishing under a creative commons license which allows users to adapt and remix the game, like this Cards Against Originality app by Dawson Whitfield).

In the last year, I traveled a lot and spent a lot of time with people of various cultures around the world. One of the things I loved exploring on the road was the universal love for CAH. I loved picking apart the seemingly universal desire to be naughty or offensive or just plain crude and laugh at it.

The game is one of those things that people will tell you won’t work with certain people, or certain cultures, but in fact it does. (Even though it currently only comes in Anglo versions: US, CAN, UK, AUS)

People even approach ‘being offensive” in the same way:

  • There is a grace period with new people. “Can we play with them?”
  • The opening round with new people or people of mixed cultures is timid, but slowly takes on a mind of its own.
  • There is universal code/energy around “things you shouldn’t laugh at”.
  • There is a universal look for “I don’t get that one, should I say I don’t get it”.
  • There are things that are universally understood (read: sex jokes) and things that are universally misunderstood (read: sex jokes).
  • You always underestimate someone. “There is no way XX person is going to get this or join in”
  • There are a range of things that are culturally specific (i.e. jokes about class aren’t funny to anyone who isn’t British) and a range of things that are culturally neutral (i.e. jokes about relationships)

However, the users quickly start to tailor the game to the needs of the group. It works in the same way as drinking games (i.e. “we play by these rules”).

I believe soon you will start to see a range of like-minds creating their own versions of CAH (i.e. women, computer scientists, etc.). And this can happen to any brand: your users can create new ideas, which are specific to them, their culture and their needs. These user generated ideas can lead to products that are more relevant than those created in a closed conference room, simply because they were created by the people who love and use them.

At antedote, we know how important it is to approach innovation with the user in mind. Our proprietary technology allows us to tap into user creativity and incorporate it into products and ideas before they launch.

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts early in the development journey with consumers globally and in real time, please click below:

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3 lessons marketers can learn from tech’s open source movement

Unlock Open Source

Open source practices may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. Why would you offer universal access to your product’s design or blueprint for others to build and improve upon?

In Silicon Valley, these open source practices are well established in software development with heavy hitters like Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Amazon having released millions of lines of code to the public and hosted hundreds of projects for the purpose of making greater advancements at faster speeds. It was actually through this development model that Android’s open operating system has gone on to become the world’s largest computing system.

Before you entirely dismiss this development model as one that is only viable for software development, I encourage you to consider the method to the “madness” (Tesla did as they took an unprecedented step of opening up all of their patents in an effort to grow the EV category at large). There are lessons that we, as marketers, can take from the open source movement, and apply to our innovation and product development processes.

Lesson 1: Make your consumers work for you
In the open source model, the users of the system are seen as co-developers, who all have access to the code and can build upon it and fix all the bugs in the software at a faster rate. What if you were to leverage consumers as co-creators of a product/concept brought in to offer feedback early in the development process?

Traditionally consumers are brought in closer to launch to screen ideas, concepts or prototypes that have already been almost completely fleshed out. At this stage, the consumer feedback solicited is often reactionary and limited to only the aspects of the product/service that can be optimized or tweaked versus an overhaul.

Consider the value of inviting consumers to feedback earlier in the process, where there is still flexibility to actually change and adapt the product based on insights from research. Instead of having a functional conversation with consumers about which features, characteristics, functionalities they like/dislike, brands can leverage initial ideas as stimulus to engage in deeper, more meaningful conversations to unearth consumers’ unrealized and unspoken needs, behaviors and motivations. These data points will better inform and guide development as they are grounded in actual needs and behaviors. More so, by bringing consumers into the development process, where they are encouraged to co-create, it starts establishing an emotional connection as they start to feel vested in the actual product and brand itself.

Lesson 2: Greater exposure for better optimization (and reduced risk)
With the open source model since the code is accessible by all users, it is continuously analyzed by a large community, which results in more secure and stable code. What if traditional NPD opened their process to include a bigger consumer community to constantly analyze, iterate and optimize an idea?

Currently consumer research does not live continuously along the traditional stage gate process, so there are a lot of assumptions (albeit informed) being made from idea creation to concept validation through to actual launch. By increasing the touchpoints for consumer feedback throughout the journey will help you optimize your idea, and also reduce the risk of launching a product that will not resonate or is not relevant to consumers.

Establishing this iterative and constant learning partnership with consumers can result in a great deal of value add for you as an organization. As it:

  • Leads to learnings that can help steer product development and design without slowing down the process
  • Provides data to help encourage internal buy in and alignment
  • Sparks ideas to launch entirely new initiatives to address the consumer and market needs that come out of this iterative research approach.


Lesson 3: Leverage barriers to identify future opportunities
Companies will often pivot to an open source model to crowd source solutions that they need addressed quickly or haven’t been able to solve internally or when they are limited in resources be it funding or audience instead of having to close down and letting everything they have built go to waste. What if you applied this approach to NPD for the ideas and prototypes that never made it or were deemed unfeasible to identify the parts that can be leveraged and built upon?

Even if an idea or prototype doesn’t perform as well as you may have hoped, by inviting consumer feedback along the product development journey allows a brand the ability to reposition the product. This helps you still leverage the technology and investment that have gone into the initial development by figuring out how to redirect resources and development based on consumer insights and market trends to lead to actual commercial opportunities.

At first glance, the open source movement may appear to be only applicable to the software development, however, there are practices that all marketers, no matter your vertical, can apply to the NPD process. By truly treating the consumer as a co-creator and inviting feedback from them along the journey from conception to launch will allow you to learn faster and make smarter decisions based in insight and data to get to end products that truly solve for unmet, unrealized and constantly evolving consumer and market needs.

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts early in the development journey with consumers globally and in real time, please click below:

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MRMW Awards 2015: Best New Technology Finalist

Best New Technology MRMW Award

We are thrilled to announce that Antedote has been shortlisted as a MRMW Award Nominee 2015 in the category: Best New Technology.

We look forward to joining the other nominees at the 2015 MRMW Award Dinner in New York on May 20th  for the final results!

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts, packaging designs and communications with consumers globally and in real time, please click below:

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A sweet scoop on innovation

Innovative ice cream - Smitten

As a child, I wasn’t allowed to eat ice cream until I was six because I had a history of asthma, and ice cream was on the no-no food list. I am convinced this had a direct impact on my now slightly obsessive relationship with ice cream. When I moved to SF last year, I was overjoyed to find that it was not only me, but the whole city who embraced gourmet ice cream with open arms.

One of the most buzzed about ice cream spots in town is Smitten. I remember the first time I was there, I stood outside the outdoor shed-like store in Hayes Valley, with the incredibly long queue of eager customers looking on with delight as the ice cream counter emitted whimsical puffs of nitrogen vapor as their orders were prepared fresh before their eyes.

Innovative Smitten Ice Cream Store in Hayes

I later learned the inspiring story behind Smitten’s success, one that warms my own heart.  Before Robyn Sue Fisher founded Smitten, she was known as the “ice cream girl” during her time at Stanford Business School.  After graduation, she applied to two jobs: IDEO and the FBI. When IDEO rejected her, she had the choice of either working for the FBI, or making her ice cream dream a reality. Smitten now serves 17,000 happy customers a month.

You would think that ice cream is a relatively simple business to start and run, but Robyn was determined to perfect ice cream through experimenting, iterating, and piloting her ideas quickly.

As she describes her journey, she identified two consumer needs that weren’t being addressed by ice cream makers on the market:

1) Natural and fresh ice cream. The distribution chain ice cream makes it very difficult to keep the products fresh.

2) A true ‘creaminess’ that prior to Smitten, was not on the market yet.

Robyn got “nerdy” about the science of ice cream, and dedicated herself to creating the perfectly smooth consistency of her dream ice cream. This “nerdiness” led to a series of experiments with liquid nitrogen to minimize the size of ice crystals in the ice cream. Starting with a liquid nitrogen machine in her backyard, she then spent the next 2 years in a basement with an engineer partner to keep iterating and perfecting the technology, and then testing the flavors by selling ice cream on streets across San Francisco for 9 months.

When the queues for Smitten ice cream seemed to go on and on, she opened her first store in Hayes Valley out of a repurposed warehouse container, which has now become a much beloved ice cream icon in the city.

So what does Robyn’s Smitten story teach us about innovation?

1. Try quickly, fail quickly, learn, and try again
Many companies get stuck at the innovation process because of fear – fear that the idea is not perfect to launch before you give it a chance to live on. When you try to perfect an idea before you put it in front of consumers, you will have invested too much, too soon, for it to fail. The key to successful innovation is to create small-scale experiments which minimize risk and can be piloted quickly, get real time feedback, then improve and try again, as what Robyn did when she sold batches on the streets of San Francisco. This iterative process actually accelerates innovation success as you build on live feedback and push the idea through.

2. Know your consumers, and deliver beyond their current needs
One of the keys to Smitten’s success was the insistence on breaking from current products in the market. Instead of creating another product that’s incrementally new, Robyn insisted on a whole new approach to ice cream – pushing the science, and offering consumers a completely fresh experience to see their ice cream being created before their own eyes, using only the highest quality ingredients.

3. Lean on passion to push through when the going gets tough
Innovation is a long and difficult journey. For Robyn, it wasn’t until year four before she had any sort of business success, and if it wasn’t for her personal passion for ice cream, Smitten might not be what it is today. For innovation to succeed, there needs to be passion behind the project to push and champion it through when you are met with naysayers and stage gate hurdles. Going after the ideas your team has personal passion for can make the difference between a good idea on a piece of paper, and a real innovation that gets launched.

Smitten’s story is truly inspiring for the innovator in all of us. We look forward to interacting with adventurous innovations sooner, and companies approaching innovation with a truly experimental and iterative mindset.

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts, packaging designs and communications with consumers globally and in real time, please click below:

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Image credit: Wired’s The Blue Bottle of Ice Cream
Image credit: flickr user drbrett (cc)
Image credit: flickr user rotron (cc)

New Wearables Restore a Lost Connection

sensorlumolift

Technology has a track record of disconnecting us from our bodies. From 9-5, we are hunched over and typing away at our computer desks; during lunch, we crane our necks to check messages on our smart phones; and even when we get home to relax, we stare into our iPads to watch Netflix. Unfortunately, the longer we live in the world of our screens, the longer we are absent from and unaware of the needs of our own bodies, reinforcing bad habits for our health and well being.

In the past few years, researchers have been studying the impact of the physical self on mental and emotional states. You’ve probably heard about how body posture can boost confidence, helping you to perform better in an interview or to nail your next presentation. Or you’ve seen this map of emotions on the body, which is just another example of how emotions are connected to biological responses.

But what’s most interesting is that technology is stepping in to enable people to reconnect with their bodies, a separation which you can say it is responsible for in the first place.

Take, for example, the new wearable device Spire. When clipped to your bra strap or belt loop, it detects when you are tense, and sends notifications to your phone to remind you to step away and breathe. It tracks your breathing patterns and data for you over time, and then actually makes recommendations for how to make real-time changes to your habits. “You’ve been sitting for over an hour, perhaps you should stretch your legs”

There are similar apps out there (Lumolift, for example detects bad posture, and reminds you to sit up straight) that are also trying to take a hold of the tech-wellness space and restore the connection between the mind and the body. This combined with power poses is a recipe for physical health and mental success.

While I’m not sure yet which approach I’d personally take for reconnecting with my physical responses to stress from the many options out there, as a researcher I’m most interested in what the reception of these apps says about shifts in our mindset as a culture, and the fresh ground they are tapping into. There’s a return to the natural and to the balanced, and it’s not exactly tech-free. The shift shows just how deeply dependent on technology we are, that we need to use technology to connect with our most basic functions – like breathing and sitting without hunching over.

There’s still a lot to be explored when it comes to mind-body connection and the role of technology, and I’m excited to see what research will uncover next, and how it will be implemented into other consumer-facing devices.

antedote is an award-winning strategic insights and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, and we have helped many of the world’s leading brands like Pepsico and Unilever to garner deeper insights about their consumers and identify opportunities to grow their brands. 

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts, packaging designs and communications with consumers globally and in real time, please click below:

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Ballet’s Revitalization

innovation_Ballet_City

I’ve always been a dancer at heart. As a young dancer, watching a live ballet performance or attending ballet classes were the only ways that I could connect with the world.

When YouTube popped into the scene, the world of ballet became more accessible, and now anyone could experience and engage with the world of ballet from afar, without ever having to step into the theater. Aspiring dancers now have access to footage from real professional ballet classes, foreign documentaries on the lives of ballerinas around the world, and even clips from famous performances.

But ballet is an art, and there’s a great concern in the ballet world that younger generations with short attention spans and a desire for fast paced action-filled adventures are losing interest in the world of classical dance.  And in a lot of ways this is true. Rather than denying this, ballets are expanding efforts to tap into new audiences and to innovate quickly.

Marketers and innovators in any industry can take notes from ballet’s recent efforts to reinvigorate the 400 year old art form.  Here are three points that marketers and innovators can remember when engaging younger generations:

  1. Understand their behavior and create offerings tailored to their needs. SF Ballet recently launched The List – a place for fans ages 21-39 to subscribe to in order to receive updates on last minute tickets to the ballet. New York City Ballet offers tickets for $29 for those under 29. With a generation who makes plans last minute and loves free subscriptions and deals, this is spot on.
  1. Borrow the audience of adjacent categories and leverage trends. One of the best examples of this is Sensorium, an event held by SF Ballet that doesn’t even have ballet in the title. It was marketed as an evening of “sensory overload”, with cocktails, dance, art, and music, and of course, an after party. This event is a perfect example of tapping into trends of memorable experiences that can be shared in real time as bite-sized content.
  1. Create partnerships that promote transparency. Ballerina Project is a beautiful example of this. What started as one photographer’s dream of photographing ballerinas dancing offstage, has grown into a multimedia project that not only showcases the talents and raw emotions of real dancers, but partners with fashion brands to advertise. My personal favorite is the partnership with AG jeans that creatively displays the comfort and flexibility of their denim (this post of a ballerina soaring through the air in AG jeans received over 30k Instagram likes). Ballerina Project has opened up the conversation around dance, fashion, and added a level of transparency to the world of dance.

 

The world of ballet is thriving more than ever before, and quickly growing its audience, and I hope this is just the start of where ballet will venture. It’s clear that through talking with users and engaging with them directly, marketing teams have created buzz and conversation, without losing the authenticity and power of classical ballet, but rather giving new generations space to influence and engage with the future of the ballet.

Image credit: Ballerina Project

antedote is an award-winning strategic insights and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, and we have helped many of the world’s leading brands like Pepsico and Unilever to garner deeper insights about their consumer and identify opportunities to grow their brands. 

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts, packaging designs and communications with consumers globally and in real time, please click below: 

Learn more