Posts Tagged research

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

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.

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

A Videogame Like No Other

That dragon cancer drowning

A new videogame has garnered the attention of The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NPR, Wired, BBC, and the like. However this videogame defies all pre-existing genres, being far different from the Smash Brothers, Call of Duty, and League of Legends of the world.

The videogame called That Dragon, Cancer was created by and based after married couple Ryan and Amy Green and their 5-year old son Joel’s battle against brain cancer.

That Dragon, Cancer chronicles the experiences of the family with elements of surrealism to convey the scattered thoughts and depths of emotions from the real-life events. It allows you to peer into the imaginative mind of the child, Joel, and allows you to see the world from the frustrated and worrisome perspective of his parents.

In one scene called “End of Treatment Party”, the long hospital corridors morphs into a go-karting race track full of cheerful fruit pick ups.

In another scene, the videogame turns Medieval, as the baby knight Joel, tries to run, jump, and toss spears at the dragon, knowing all too well that the battle is futile.

That Dragon, Cancer is a beautiful, philosophical videogame that explores life’s biggest questions and helps the player to truly walk in the shoes of Ryan, Amy, and Joel during their most difficult times.

Its videogame/diary/poetic hybrid format allows the player to empathize with Ryan, Amy, Joel in a more intimate way than an autobiographical book or film.

That Dragon Cancer Storytelling

Many of us are storytellers at work. Our job is to paint a story in a way that our clients can truly understand the emotional journey of people who are not themselves. More often then not, we see people in our industry succumb to using the powerpoint deck as that medium. But is there a better way to share someone’s story? To truly understand another’s desires and fears, their highs and lows?

We believe the medium is almost as important as the story being told, and based on our client’s needs have delivered findings through interactive journeys, creative games, sensory displays, and videos to truly bring to life people’s stories.

With the massive attention that That Dragon, Cancer videogame has received, I look forward to seeing what new mediums will emerge to help us to better connect with other people and gain deeper insights into their lives.

7 Tips to Be a More Empathetic Researcher

Empathetic Researcher

We know that empathy is important in building good relationships with our family and friends. However, empathy is also crucial in our professional lives and business success.  Empathy allows us to be more insightful researchers.  It allows us to see experiences in our consumers’ shoes and to create better products for them.

Here are 7 tips for your interactions with others (whether it’s with friends or with consumers) to become a more empathetic researcher:

  1. Recognize your preconceptions and prejudices. Be honest with yourself and be mindful of your preconceptions and where they come from (it’s ok – we all have them). Park them aside and be like a sponge, soaking up anything the another person has to say without judgement.
  2. Listen with your ears, eyes, and gut.
    • What key words and phrases stand out? What tone are they using?
    • What is their body doing while they speak?
    • What does your instinct say about what is important to them and how they are feeling?
  3. Validate. Phrases like “I get it”, “That makes sense”, and “Of course you feel that way” validate the other’s feelings. You don’t have to agree, you just need to show that you understand what they are going through.
  4. Mirror.  Studies have shown that going through the motion of making facial expressions can actually result in us experiencing the associated emotions. Imitate and mirror back the facial expressions of the person you are talking to so that you can tap into how they are feeling.
  5. Paraphrase. When actively listening, paraphrase and repeat what the person has said so that you can internalize what you’re hearing and also show that you understand what they said. If it becomes apparent when you paraphrase that you’re off the mark, they can use that as an opportunity to clarify.
  6. Tell me more. When listening to their story, try to understand why they might feel the way they do. Phrases like “What makes you say that?” or “Tell me more about that” can help you get closer to the “why”. Do your best to imagine yourself in their scenario.
  7. Don’t confuse sympathy and empathy Empathy is a great, warm place to foster growth. Sympathy comes from a place of perceived superiority and can be very destructive.

The Empathy Machine

VR Oculus Empathy Virtual Reality

What if you could put on a headset that allows you to feel exactly what someone else feels?

Verge publishes fictional stories bi-weekly – not to be confused with their news- and one especially caught my eye. It is called “The Empathy Machine“. The author describes his fictional experience at CES trying out the PathoGlyph Wavelength, a device that allows the wearer to feel the complete emotional journey of a person other than himself.

If virtual reality hijacks our eyes to show us the world through someone else’s, the Wavelength hijacks the whole nervous system.

It is a provocative piece, describing this “empathetic immersion” as the next great medium after virtual reality.

For most of the Wavelength’s “tracks,” PathoGlyph developers construct and place different feelings at key places in the story, the way a film editor might layer audio cues. They’re electrochemical cocktails that produce generic sensations — approximations of sadness, joy, or even complex concepts like jealousy…

Wearers can try out the PathoGlyph Wavelength and choose between different “tracks”, from Henry, a lonely big-eyed hedgehog’s search for a friend to Syria, a bystander’s perspective during a Syrian bombing. The story paints possible opportunities and concerns such a device could bring – from bringing about true empathy to bringing about psychologically damaging effects.

Of course in the real world – that device doesn’t exist. We cannot simply strap on a headset that will allow us to feel the emotional experience of another person; but we can build our empathy skills as people.

What we do have are emotionally intelligent researchers who have developed strong interpersonal skills to be able to empathize with and understand the people they are learning about. And in a world where the message of being more consumer centric has been touted over and over again – many marketers and designers are still sadly out of touch with the very people they are reaching/designing for.


Whether you are creating cleaning products for working mothers in the suburbs or marketing apparel for millennials in the city – you have to understand the world as your consumers see it; or else you miss the mark.  It is a difficult skills to not let your own personal perspectives subconsciously influence the way you imagine others to feel. Our researchers have honed in on important empathetic building skills to be able to paint the true emotional journey of the consumer and draw deep insights that can inform products and communications that will truly resonate.

Of course it probably would be simpler to just put on a Polygraph Wavelength. But until then, empathetic researchers will be the closest we have to stepping into someone else’s shoes.

Toki Pona for Deeper Insights

Language Insight

I recently came upon the world’s smallest language, which only has 123 words and 14 letters. It is called Toki Pona. Toki Pona (which draws roots from a mix of English, Finnish, Georgian, Dutch, Coratian, Chinese) was created by linguist Sonja Lang in an attempt to express maximal meaning with minimal complexity.

With only 123 words in the language that represent the most basic elements, Toki Pona speakers say it is really all you need to communicate almost anything. For words that don’t exist, Toki Pona speakers just use other existing words to describe what they mean. For example, there exists only 5 words for colors (loje – red, laso – blue, jelo – yellow, walo – white, pimeja – black). But what if you wanted to say orange? Well like an artist, you would combine the colors. Loje jelo for orange. ­

The creative circumlocution that people engage in to communicate with others using Toki Pona can offer insight into how people think and view the world and situations.

For example, take coffee. There is no word in Toki Pona for it – but what can be said if someone describes coffee in Toki Pona as “my morning cup” and another “bad brown liquid”?

Metaphors are great insight into the human mind, and Toki Pona allows for that.

Non-verbal communication is also important to understanding others in Toki Pona. There is no word for formal niceties, such as please and thank you. Toni Poka speakers, however, started naturally making up for the lack of these niceties with polite gestures, such as asking for something with a Japanese-like head nod. Tone and nonverbal gestures could make the same exact statement come out differently. Give me that (with a low nod). Or Give me that! I would think that Toki Pona speakers would be great at observing and picking up intention from cues other than verbal. An attribute that is also valuable in insight work.

So what if everyone, in addition to their native language, spoke Toki Pona? Toki Pona filters out the noise of excess thoughts and gets straight to the heart of things.  I feel like people would become more mindful communicators and listeners, and gain deeper insight into their conversations with others.

Collectively Toki Pona speakers say it takes an average of only 30 hours to learn. Compare that to the hours of Rosetta Stone classes people take to learn their second language.  I’m going to take the challenge and learn Toki Pona with my sister over the break to experiment to see how that strengthens my own insight skills.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

7 Tips to Humanize Digital Ethnography

Digital Ethnography

Digital ethnography platforms allow you to interact with many consumers at scale by connecting with them via their computer and/or mobile phone. The tool is adaptable, allowing you to observe consumers in their own environment as well as converse and interact with them 24/7, both inside and outside the home.

However, when using these tools, researchers need to be careful not to unintentionally alienate themselves from their respondents. Because unlike in-person ethnographies, the nuances of nonverbal communication remain unseen and the warm tones from face-to-face interactions are lost.

Digital ethnography platforms are great, but if you don’t get the number of completed activities you need from them because your respondents are disengaged or uncomfortable – then that’s a huge problem.

So how can you take advantage of these next-generation research tools without sacrificing the human touch?

Here are 7 tips to humanize the experience for your respondents:

  1. At the beginning of the study, record a video of you and your team introducing yourselves, preferably in some cozy setting like on a couch. It always warms things up to see the people you will be interacting with. Make the introduction friendly and conversational. You want them to feel like they know you!
  2. Ask them to upload photos of their hobbies and interests outside of the study. Before jumping straight into the heart of the study, allow themselves to express who they are. What do they like to do? What are their passions? This helps break the ice and also allows you to get to know them outside of a certain segment (i.e. “breakfast eater or non-breakfast eater”).
  3. Instead of writing a message, use a webcam to answer any of the more complicated questions they have. This reminds them that yes, there is indeed a real person behind the platform.
  4. Let them know what they are doing before they do it. It always helps to have an intro piece that explains to them what they can expect (i.e. “This next activity will be a creative one. We will be asking you to create a collage which you will later talk us through in a video”) before giving the specific instructions and “how-to” of the activity. Going straight into the directions may seem too overwhelming and intro pieces allows for breathers and reduces confusion.
  5. Double check your copy to make sure it is friendly, clear, and succinct. Include exclamation points and encouraging words after they have completed tasks (i.e. “Great job on your collage! Now for the next activity…”)
  6. Welcome them each morning of the study with a friendly note. The note should be an update of their individual progress and the community progress. The note should be friendly, but also lets them know how many other people have completed the task. This social proof will instill a tiny sense of guilt and of course motivation if they are among the ones who are not caught up yet.
  7. Probe to dig deeper. Asking more questions based off their answers (i.e. “Could you elaborate on how you were feeling here?”) will help you to get at deeper insights. It also lets them know that there is someone actually reading their answers and will encourage them to continue.


We hope these tips can help you maintain the human touch with your consumers, allowing them to open up, leading to more honesty, candor, and deeper insights.

9 Tips When Doing Research with Kids

Kid Children Research

Many people doubt the accuracy of children research, but fail to recognize that adults can also be subject to social desirability, persona bias, and a range of other issues that can distort their response.  But like all good insight work, it is the design of the methodology and the skill of the researcher that can compensate for these factors and yield deep, rich learnings to truly understand their consumer.

Kids are an important demographic to understand and tap into because they influence their parents’ buying decisions (from what breakfast to buy to what software to buy) and are the adult consumers of the future.

So what are some challenges and tips to keep in mind when researching kids under 9?

It is hard to ask direct questions to children and to maintain their focus, especially in professional and school-like settings.

  • Tip 1: Keep away from pen and paper. Using interactive stimuli delivered through mobile apps and tablets, or even traditional visualizers and artistic mediums like clay or crayons, can allow you to create interactive experiences that are enjoyable and leverage the creative focus of the children.
  • Tip 2: Keep activities to 45 minutes to 1 hour; the shorter, the better, and breaks are great.

Relevance/Reliability of Data
Kids want to ‘be right’ or do what they think adults will say is ‘right.’ When their parents are present, they try even harder to say what they think is expected.

  • Tip 3: Keep parents out of the room. Instead, have parents monitor from a double mirror or other channel, allowing them to comment and add interpretation to their kids’ behavior.
  • Tip 4: iPads and mobile phones are intuitive to this generation and can directly offer the questions and activities, removing the presence of the adult interviewer.
  • Tip 5: Show older children how to interview each other and allow them to conduct their own “friendship interviews”, allowing them to be more relaxed and to allow for more spontaneous dialogue and interactions.
  • Tip 6: New tools (like sensors) to observe real-time behavior can add another layer of useful data

Large Gaps in Cognitive/Social/Verbal Abilities
The cognitive and verbal abilities between even just a year in age vastly differ between children.

  • Tip 7: Tailor activities and questions specifically to each age group. Too young of a question, they might get bored or answer silly deliberately. Too old of a question, and they will try to sound like they know what they are talking about.
  • Tip 8: Do not clump different age groups together. If you try to clump 6-8 year olds in the same room, the younger children will feel intimidated, and the 8 year old children will feel insulted.
  • Tip 9: Create focus groups of 6 with children of the same age. 6 so it has enough for people to chime in, but not too much that it’s too roudy to handle or would require extra moderators.

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

3 Tips on Making Better Companies and Better Products from Google X Co-Founder

Tom Chi Image FactoryXRecently, I went with friends to attend an intimate event hosted by Tom Chi, the co-founder of Google X (the not so secret Google lab that brought you Google Glass, the self-driving car, and Project Loon) and now FactoryX.

What is FactoryX you ask?

For all the innovation in the valley, one thing we’ve never taken a deep look at is the nature of companies themselves. For half a millennium, we’ve strengthened corporations at the expense of individual empowerment and benefit to society. But ultimately, corporations are nothing more than ways of organizing work, and the only point in organizing work is to empower individuals and benefit society. FactoryX is a bold experiment to revise the nature of companies themselves and re-invent entrepreneurship from the ground up.” – from the FactoryX website

His talk was fascinating, exploring alternative frameworks for talent/recruitment, legal, product development, and marketing/distribution. But here are 3 simple take aways from Tom Chi’s talk that you can more readily apply to your own work.

Skip the guess-a-thon and just do it

We all have been there. Stuck in long meetings, discussing and guessing theories before putting anything into practice. But Tom strongly believes that it is more efficient to think by doing.

After all, when we first learned how to ride a bike, we didn’t do it by reading books on the physics of biking. We learned by actually getting on a bike, and through trial and error, we succeeded.

On this principle, Factory X takes rapid prototyping very seriously. Here is a typical schedule below. Take note that there are only 2 mandatory meetings in purple- one on Monday to decide what they are making and one on Friday for reflection and gratitude. The rest of the time is focused on the actual doing.

Weekly Operating Snapshot - FactoryX

What’s even crazier is that every week, FactoryX design/develop/test a completely new product. At the end of 10 weeks, they start a new company, selecting the most viable product from the 10 products they have developed within that time frame. It could take large companies 10 months to realize a product is a complete dud. But at FactoryX’s crazy fast rate, it would only take them 10 minutes.

When have you started with theories before putting into practice? When have you started with practice then moved on to theory?

Manage your attachment

During quick brainstorms, Tom found that 2-3 minutes is ideal. Because after the first wave of ideas are spurted out and people start to run out of steam, instead of coming up with new ideas, people start attaching themselves to their favorite ideas, which they then start championing during group discussions. This will stifle creativity, as people’s bias will prevent them from being open and objective to other ideas and opinions.

Tom warns us that attachment can be hindrance to innovation.

Companies also fail when they are too attached to a way of thinking or doing. They fail when they don’t have the foresight to acknowledge market changes and pivot to stay relevant.

Blockbuster became one of the biggest failures in movie rental business, as they shrugged off online videos as a fad, remained attached to their brand, and didn’t do anything to change their offering until it was too late.

Attachment management is crucial to the success of products, companies, and the progression of an industry.

When have you held on too strongly to an idea or way of doing things?

Know your Life Mission

It’s important to spend some time thinking about and identifying your life mission. What consumes your mind? What do you want from this life?

To stay active and engaged at work, it is helpful to seek out companies that promote and push forward your own life mission. Of course it is not realistic for a company to support 100% of all your life missions (like those relating to personal relationships, etc), but if it accounts for 30-40% of it, Tom says you’re doing good.

One of the audience members asked Tom, “What’s your life mission?”

He explained that the challenge that preoccupies his mind is making human existence a net positive to nature. Since most of our interaction with nature is facilitated through companies, he thought it was critical to explore new company structures and new ways to organize work so that the individual, society, and nature ultimately benefit- thus the existence of FactoryX.

I look forward to the successes of FactoryX in building the foundation for the modern company of the 21st century.

Tom Chi Company

Tom Chi Future of Work

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?

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.

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).

9 Tips When Approaching Sensitive Research Topics

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Let’s talk about personal hygiene. Or sex? How about death and illness?

Researchers know too well that not all topics are easy to talk about, and there are certain topics of conversation that people will naturally shy away from because they are deemed too personal, stressful, sacred, or deal with a fear of stigmatization.

In our work, we have dealt with a variety of highly personal, sensitive topics from personal care (hygiene, body image, etc.) to health and wellness (illness, psychological disorders, aging, etc.). We know that dealing with these topics takes patience and experience to truly get the most out of your conversations, but still respect and protect the consumer.

Here are our top 9 tips when approaching sensitive research topics.

1. Use online platforms so they can feel a little more anonymous in their sharing
Even if you are doing in-person work, starting out online can act as a perfect warm up, allowing respondents to share more while “hiding behind their screen”.  Start with private online activities and then slowly transition to online group discussion to get respondents more comfortable sharing with others. At antedote, our online platforms allows us to prime our consumers with exercises, from questionnaires or virtual collages, warming them up for the actual face-to-face time, and ultimately allowing for deeper, richer, and more focused conversation.

2. Consider the environment
Traditional conference style tables and chairs can feel rather cold and uncomfortable. Consider starting with a happy hour with appetizers and wine, then moving into a relaxed living room setting to do the group talk.

3. Set up the conversation
The beginning of the conversation is crucial. Spend ample time talking about the flow of the day before getting started and answering any questions. Help set their expectations to put their minds at ease by using phrases like “there are no wrong answers” and “we don’t know what we we’re looking for”.

4. First, talk about something else
Don’t just dive right into the sensitive topic. “How do you feel about the way your skin looks?” is obviously never a good starter. Instead begin by talking about how the behavior plays out in a different, less sensitive category first, then work your way to the intended sensitive topic.

For example, if the topic being studied is evening skin tone, which can become a sensitive discussion due to its associations around aging, personal care and cleanliness, you can begin by first talking about the same behavior in a more comfortable scenario, such as stain/removal in household care. You can facilitate the conversation around removing stains from clothing, sheets, or whitening teeth – then tactfully move into skin. Respondents are more likely to talk freely about a less personal topic first, so it’s a good way to start out.

5. Allow them to educate you
Don’t assume you know everything. Leave all assumptions and pre-conceived notions behind. Ask for them to teach you about what is going on. What do they hope for from products? What is it like to be them? What do they wish people knew? You be the student and let them be the teacher.

6. Have them share with one another
Set up forums or focus groups as a safe place for discussion. If everyone in the group is dealing with the same sensitivity, they may even enjoy exchanging tips or suggestions or empathizing with one another.

7. Use metaphors
Bring in visuals. It’s easier to talk about sensitive issues in the abstract. Allow them to point to visuals or draw pictures to describe how they feel.

8. The power of stories
People tell stories everyday. Encourage them to share stories about the topic they are dealing with as opposed to just “answering the question”. Stories can get deeper and open up new conversations you wouldn’t even think to have had.

9. Be prepared to share yourself
Traditionally moderators are trained to keep themselves out of the conversation, but to encourage sharing on sensitive topics it helps to build rapport and open your personal self to the conversation. Just keep in mind to keep the self-sharing to a minimum so you’re not influencing them, but rather showing that you can relate. Making them feel connected will generate a better conversation.

Introducing Idea Accelerator

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

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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.

The Problem with Tautophrases

You do you

This morning, my sister and I had a short chat about Dexter’s motivations as a serial killer (typical 9am topic in our family, apparently). The whole conversation was quickly shut down when I said, “You know, he just likes killing people and stuff. You do you, Dexter”.

Immediately after I said it, it bothered me immensely. Not because I thought it wasn’t funny – the idea of accepting anti-societal, murderous behavior with a simple, undeniable statement like “you do you” is just absurd – but because this kind of tautophrase (a statement like “it is what it is” that basically repeats the same thing twice as a logical, Undeniable Truth) actively shuts down any kind of educated discussion or consideration of the world around us. I pride myself in being a thinker, but tautophrases stop thinking in its tracks – it’s just really mentally lazy to say “you do you” without any deeper thought into the topic of conversation.

It reminded me of a New York Times article I read a couple months back. It’s titled, appropriately, “How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture”, by Colson Whitehead, and it describes how tautophrases like “you do you” or “it is what it is” have shifted in cultural use over time. These thought-blocking statements used to be about supporting the status quo (“what will be will be”), but in recent years hip-hop and then pop culture have reclaimed the tautophrase to celebrate Me, as a beautiful and special Individual. Even, as Whitehead says, if that person is Taylor Swift – she can’t help it that the “haters gonna hate hate hate”; it just goes to support how unique and worthy she is as an individual. “Regardless of how shallow that individual is.”

Living in San Francisco, a Mecca of counter-culture, I see this attitude of celebrating individuality for the sake of individuality every day. Anti-culture is the current glorified culture (especially in the tattooed and vintage-ridden Mission district), while “normal” is something to be embarrassed by – “you do you” glorifies the traits that make people stand out, while “Basic Bitch” shames people who may agree with a mainstream trend.

Of course, I’m all about celebrating differences and uniqueness. It’s the shallowness, the lack of thoughtfulness behind “you do you” that stands out to me. If we’re using “you do you” to brush off any abnormal or weird behaviors (like my neighbor’s obsession with mushrooms, or Dexter’s killing tendencies), we’re not digging deeper to understand what makes people that way, who they truly are beneath the surface “uniqueness”.

While tautophrases used to be used so people wouldn’t question the status quo, are they now used so that we don’t have to question each other as individuals? So that we don’t have to get deeper than appearances – maybe because it’s just uncomfortable to do so?

Normally when we write blog posts, we’re writing about what our industry can learn from someone or something. In this case, though, I think that we, in our personal lives and how we interact with others, can learn from research. Research is all about getting deeper with people, about exploring people as more than stereotypes to truly understand their motivations and attitudes. In our “you do you” culture, how can we take cues from research into our daily lives, to get deeper with the people around us?

What Researchers Can Learn from BBC’s The Fall

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I’ve just started watching season one of BBC’s The Fall on Netflix, and I’m obsessed. No, it’s not just because of the beautiful Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson – this show is intelligently written and gorgeously filmed in a way that immediately sucks you into the psychological thriller storyline.

The plot follows a serial killer of professional brunette women (Dornan) and the Detective Superintendent brought in to track him down (Anderson), but it’s not just a game of cat and mouse. The story closely tracks the personal lives of the main characters, allowing the viewer to speculate on emotions and motives based on the characters’ actions, words and professed beliefs – not entirely unlike ethnographic research. It got me thinking: what can we, as researchers, learn from my new favorite show?

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Take a step back and think about your own camera angle. The show puts the viewer in an almost voyeuristic POV at times – the opening shot in the first episode is through a bathroom door, watching Anderson clean the bathtub from behind. The angle of view affects how we perceived the story and the characters. It can set us up for fear, skepticism or trust; it can influence us to see motives as predatory, ruthlessly ambitious, altruistic or loving.

As marketers, we view consumers from a structured, purposeful angle; yet as researchers, we need to be open-minded enough to suspend judgment and hold back on making assumptions until we have all the evidence. When walking into a room, consider the angle you’re viewing from – how is your viewpoint throwing your perception of the situation?


Your consumer is not a caricature of herself. In the show, the psychotic serial murderer also is a grief counselor who loves his children and who you genuinely start to root for when he’s in a bind; the badass lady lead detective is undeniably qualified and seen as the expert who can rule any room (or sexual relationship), who also deeply empathize with victims and suspects.

This is one of the most amazing, groundbreaking parts of the show: the characters are displayed as real, complicated and sometimes utterly unpredictable humans. It sounds obvious, yet think of how often, in society, we caricaturize instead of characterize – summing up people as predictable, one- (or two or three) note personalities instead of rich, complicated and deep-feeling humans.

As researchers, we often have to understand people quickly, capture their motives, habits and behaviors and make recommendations based on predictions. This doesn’t mean, however, that building caricatures is ever a shortcut for understanding character.

Real life means beliefs and intentions change rapidly, and you have to keep up.
The Fall’s detectives have hunches and inklings that seem immediately important, but sometimes they’re red herrings – and sometimes, by the time the evidence is uncovered, it’s not relevant anymore. Humans are fickle, emotional creatures, and we’re constantly changing our minds and adapting to the world around us. The job of the detectives – like researchers – is searching, identifying the patterns, and keeping up as the case evolves.

As a researcher, you are going to see cues, clues and indications that seem to fit together into an immediate perfect solution, but when that solution is pressure-tested, it may just not work anymore. And that’s ok. Solving any problem isn’t about knowing where to put each piece as its handed to you – it’s about being flexible, being truly open to an evolution of hunches and ideas.

Antedote recently launched a new tool called the Idea Accelerator to help us keep up and be open to the evolution of our ideas. The Idea Accelerator allows us to rapidly and iteratively explore ideas and concepts with consumers and get in-the-minute, global feedback. To learn more click below.

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The Paniq Room: Experimentation is the key out


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:

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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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New Wearables Restore a Lost Connection


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


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

Virtual Reality takes you inside the mind of a schizophrenic


The internet is flooding with the buzz around virtual reality technology and the huge tech giants who are trying to dominate the space. Facebook bought Oculus Rift. Samsung launched Gear VR. Microsoft debuted HoloLens.

But in the midst of all the chatter, I had came across an innovative use of virtual reality that piqued my interest because it was used for purposes beyond gaming culture, beyond better ways to make shooting zombies more realistic.

What was refreshing about this project was that the virtual reality headset was used to help build empathy for a stigmatized group who is hard to understand.

In the Daily Dot article, Selena Larson describes her uneasy but eye-opening experience using the Oculus Rift in a simulation project called “Mindscape”. Viscira designed the simulation for a pharmaceutical company to help their potential clients understand how schizophrenia feels like. And unlike audio tests or videos, the immersive experience produces a deeper and longer impact on the user.

In the simulation, Larson walks into an elevator for a job interview and hears whispers inside her own head and from strangers, telling her “You will fail”. And even though she knew the entire experience was fake, she couldn’t help but feel completely uncomfortable, even after the headset was taken off.

With the recent hype around virtual reality, I look forward to seeing how the technology will be leveraged in industries like healthcare, pharma or research. Beyond gaming and entertainment, industries which most people associate with virtual reality, there are huge opportunities for virtual reality and other emerging technologies be used to solve tough industry challenges, gain deeper insights into people’s behaviors, and help us transform the way we think and live as humans.


antedote is a 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 latest innovation and insight tools, please click below for a free demo:

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Introjii – Insight into the World of Introverts

Insights Introjii

These days much of our communication exists at a distance. It’s been this way for a long time now, but this hasn’t replaced our need for visuals in communication. When you isolate a person’s voice or words, it’s tough to get your point across.

I was excited to learn about Introji the other day through Fast Company. Introji is an app in development that will soon give introverts a way to communicate through texted emojis.

As an introvert myself, I immediately saw the value in this. Some times I’m at a loss for words when a friend invites me out at night, but I’ve been gone since the crack of dawn and in meetings for work all day, or I’ve been out of town all weekend and need to let people know I have plans, even if these plans include finally spending some time at my apartment reading a book.

I’m curious to see what other forms of visual communication will emerge over the next years. In the research world, it’s incredibly important to speak to people in a way they understand, and let them answer in a way that suits them. One of the ways we talk to respondents at antedote is through our digital ethnography platform. You can gain rich insights from people when you ask them to share their candid thoughts and feelings through video, pictures, and drawings. In research, a pictures really is worth a thousand words.

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antedote is a 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 latest innovation and insight tools, please click below for a free demo:

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Podo: In-the-Moment Capturing for Research

insights research camera

insights camera

Good-bye selfie stick!

Podo, the world’s first ‘stick and shoot’ app-controlled camera was released on Kickstarter, garnering much media attention from the likes of Tech Crunch, PSFK, GigaOm, and The New Web.

Podo is compact enough to slip into your pocket, and allows you take instant photos, videos, time lapses and double exposures by just sticking the small device on to any solid surface (wood, glass, cement, etc.) and then using the free app to snap (see the video below). Its popularity and need is evident by the campaign reaching its goal of $50,000 in just 16 hours.

Podo has already garnered several awards including “Top Startup” at the Plug and Play Accelerator and a “Global Brains Award” at the Global Brains Summit, but [President] Eddie Lee most looks forward to seeing how people use Podo. “I’m really curious to see what other people come up with, when cameras aren’t limited by the reach of our arms,” he says. “I think this will allow people to be creative and spontaneous.” – PSFK

In research, self-recording by consumers is usually limited to at-home environment where they can self- record using their laptop camera or to usually blurry, unusable footage with their mobile phone camera that can only capture as far as their arm goes.

Now with the availability of the Podo, researchers can expand the scenarios from which they can retrieve photos and footage from consumers. As we move as an industry towards real-time research, simple devices like Podo that encourage living in and capturing the moment will be tapped by researchers as a quick and easy tool to analyze human behavior in its entire context.

We are also excited to see what other creative uses other industries will make from the Podo.

Support Eddie Lee’s Kickstarter campaign here.

antedote is a 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 latest innovation and insight tools, please click below for a free demo:

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Travel Innovation: Virtual Reality Takes Off


An industry first, Qantas Airways together with Samsung recently introduced a 360 degree Virtual Reality experience for their travelers. Now on select flights, First Class travelers will be able to be transport to any virtual world (imagine immersing yourself in your favorite blockbuster movie or exploring tourist sites of your final destination before you even land) during their long 14 hour flight from Australia to Los Angeles.

At antedote, we thrive on tapping into the newest technology to uncover new insights and drive innovation for our clients. That is why we love watching how different sectors integrate emerging technology and are following the evolution of this exciting new medium as it moves from gaming to travel.

As virtual reality becomes even more refined and more realistic, researchers can also look forward to leveraging the technology to create immersive experiences for subjects in conceptual scenarios, without spending money or time creating physical prototypes.


Kodak’s New Immersive Video


Kodak recently introduced the Kodak Pixpro SP360, which can capture a 360 degree view of an event.

Although the gadget could still use some refinement, as researchers, we are excited for the possibilities that the Kodak Pixpro SP 360 will bring to the field. Other recording devices like the GoPro can only record one aspect of an action at a time, but with the palm-sized Kodak PixPro SP360, researchers can capture what a person is doing as well as their own reaction in the surrounding environment. Around the table group interviews would also be possible to record, documenting the entire group’s dynamic. In the future, immersive video will be a great tool for researchers to use to analyze human behavior in its entire context.


6 Tips for Practicing Empathy

Today we honor a great hero who dedicated his to life to ending racial and economic inequality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was an iconic leader who inspired us to have empathy for people from all walks of life.

Empathy has been on the tongues of many lately, from educators to businessmen to politicians, as an important trait necessary for successful relationships at home and at work. Differing from sympathy, which is feeling sorrow for someone else’s misfortune and may come from a place of perceived superiority, empathy is the ability to understand and share the other person’s feelings and perspectives, to figuratively “walk in someone else’s shoes”. Here’s a great video on the difference between the two.

Below are 6 tips from Antedote on building empathy for others. Much of it seems like obvious common sense, but in daily practice, it is often easy to forget to do. Beyond our personal lives, being empathetic is also critical in our research work to truly understand consumer behavior and motivations and reach deeper insights.

6 Tips for Practicing Empathy


  • When someone else is talking to you, truly listen and focus on their words as opposed to thinking and creating your own response to it. Take a few moments before verbally responding to consider their emotional state and the motivations behind their words.



  • Be curious about others outside your social circle. Next time you’re at a café, strike up a conversation with a stranger. Even more points to chatting with someone who does not share your gender, ethnic make up, or age group. Go beyond talking about the weather. A good icebreaker is to offer them a genuine compliment and then ask a question that follows up on learning more about how they acquired that skill/trait. Allow the other person to talk about themselves.



  • Share a hidden part of yourself. When someone shares a story with you, open up and share a story of yourself as well to show them that you understand what they are going through and where they are coming from.



  • When meeting someone different than us, recognize your own preconceptions and prejudices and where they stem from. Do not let them govern your actions. Instead focus on finding commonalities between you and the other person.



  • Put into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.” Do activities that you wouldn’t normally participate in to literally see how it feels to live someone else’s life. Attend a service of a faith that is not your own. Spend time in a neighborhood that you never hang around in.



  • Don’t instinctively go with your default reaction. Try to internally take the opposite point of view first, then work from there. Try to even argue the opposing view.


By practicing empathy in our daily lives, we can help to strengthen our relationships with our family, friends, and our greater community to build the caring world that King dreamed of.

Content of Character Quote

What Insights Do Kids’ Drawings Reveal?


Surveys, questionnaires, polls and other forms of self-report are popular ways of gathering data for numerous reasons. They are a cost-effective, fast, and easy to distribute to large samples. However, there are many dangers in relying only on self-reporting data.

Respondents can both consciously and unconsciously be less than honest in order to uphold an aspirational image they have of themselves (in a survey, you may respond that you go to the gym 5 days a week, when in actuality you go to the gym twice a week); or respondents may answer on availability heuristic, the tendency for people to rely on immediate examples that come to mind when evaluating a specific topic (if the questionnaire asks if you are social, and you just went to a birthday party that day, you would be inclined to base your answer on the fact you went to a birthday party recently); or respondents might even interpret the question in different ways unrelated to the purpose of the inquiry.

Because of self-reporting’s unreliability, many researchers have experimented and developed new methods to obtain more accurate data, such as Roger Mills-Koonce from UNC-Chapel Hill. His team is exploring ways to understand children’s mental representations and interpersonal relationships within their family through pictures. In the study, researchers asked 6-year-old children to draw their families on a piece of paper and then they analyzed them. The study was done on 6 year olds because they were old enough to hold the crayons, yet young enough to have not yet internalize society’s idea of the “perfect” family.

It is not a new concept to interpret drawings, but the important part about Mills-Koonce’s work is their effort to make abstract data more reliable by developing a system of objective evaluation so that anyone can interpret the drawings similarly and arrive at the same conclusions.

At Antedote, we believe in leveraging the latest technology to develop new methods that will allow us to get to the heart of true insights. One of our latest tools for discovering fresh insights in crowded marketplaces (which had recently won the 2014 MRS Award for Best Innovation) allows us to bring order and sense to otherwise abstract data. We applaud and join the efforts of researchers like Mills-Koonce for pushing the industry forward with new innovative systems and approaches.

Bubble Gum Broccoli? McDonald’s Food Innovation Fail

bubble gum broccoli innovation fast food fail

As McDonald’s faces pressure to revive their sales as they lose their consumers to healthier fast-casual options like Chipotle, who promotes organic and local sourcing, they are moving on multiple fronts to stay relevant, and ultimately thrive in an increasingly health-conscious world.

Bubble Gum Flavored Broccoli” is one thing that McDonald’s has discovered not to do.

This wacky food mashup was a front-runner in McDonald’s attempt to get kids to eat vegetables, with CEO Don Thompson sharing the breakthrough publicly at a VC event. However, unsurprisingly enough, they soon realized that adding sweet flavoring to a vegetable wouldn’t make it any more appetizing to kids who were absolutely confused by the flavor.

The crunchy cruciferous has always been a hard sell with growing palates, and in the past they’ve been smothered with sauces far and wide to make them easier to eat. Broccoli has been whirled into green juices and hidden away with other natural flavors to make a tasty drink. We can imagine that McDonald’s saw a number of benefits with the reflavoring including cost, exclusivity and an offering that fits in the “healthy” category. Since we don’t know how this concoction was created (through additional flavorings or genetics), they’ve left open the door for blowback from related to GMO concerns, ridicule by healthy food advocates and parents that are trying to get their children to explore new tastes and textures.

McDonald’s needs to better understand its own consumers in order to focus their product development efforts. Throwing oddities like bubble gum broccoli at a wall to see what sticks may not be the most efficient way to launch successful innovations.

What emotional and social factors drive people to and away from McDonald’s? What opportunities are there for McDonald’s to encourage healthier eating from their menu? How can the brand launch innovations that support a healthier image that overshadows their “Super Size Me” scar?

To innovate and survive in an increasingly health-conscious world, fast food and casual dining restaurants need to gain consumer insights that can help to identify the best opportunities to stay one step, or multiple steps ahead of the curve for their brand. Consumer understanding is the key, and McDonald’s needs to take their insight to the next level to avoid public missteps as they work to transition their brand.


Instagram Launches Autoplay Video Advertisements

Recently Instagram launched 15-second autoplay video advertisements on their platform. Although Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom has been known to be very hands on with their brands when they first launched static image advertisements last year, there are still complaints among users that the brand ads are not attractive and simply don’t fit the beautiful feeds. There is also uncertainty among users if the video function even really belongs on the platform.

Launching idea after idea, advertisement after advertisement, may not be the best way for these tech companies to thrive, as their followers begin to grow more irritated. Tech companies have to start exploring new ways to remain relevant and profitable in the rapidly changing landscape. The time is now to truly understand user’s needs and to ascertain deep human insights to find the golden opportunities to grow the business and brand.


“Bad” work habits are good for insight

Work habits

To continue the theme from my last post, I’ve been noticing more and more psychological research that supports my “bad” (not really bad, you’ll find) work habits.

1. A messy desk. This is a big one. It’s official; a messy desk has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt to encourage creativity. In a paper in Psychological Science, researchers have shown that a “disorderly environment” makes people more creative and leads them to be drawn to things labeled as “new.” You can see for yourself here.

The research also found that people with tidy desks are boring and uptight. Ok, it didn’t really. It found that ordered environments encourage “healthy choices, generosity, and conventionality.” Time to start using two desks I think.

2. Doodling. It’s been shown to increase memory retention, problem solving ability, and concentration. Watch Sunni Brown’s talk “Doodlers, unite!” here.

3. Sitting in the dark. When I work late I don’t turn on the lights. I sit in the dark with a small desk lamp on. Darkness has also been shown to improve creative performance. A paper in the Journal of Environmental Psychology theorizes that darkness helps people feel “freedom from constraints, enabling a global and explorative processing style, which in turn facilitates creativity.”

So there you have it: sitting at a messy desk in the dark doodling away may very well lead you to your next killer insight, and it’s good for the environment too. You’re welcome.