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Elements of our process

A Cascade Strategies ideation project incorporates a series of steps:

Phase 1: Internal depth interviews.
Phase 2: External depth interviews.
Phase 3: Preparation and dissemination of an ideation workplan.
Phase 4: Ideation session.
Phase 5: Final report and recommendations.

The central and most important phase of the work is Phase 4, the ideation session. Other phases of the work either provide inputs into this phase or use its results to prepare a report.

Since ideation, then, is a dominant or guiding principle for this work, it’s smart to talk about what ideation is and what it’s expected to produce.

What is ideation?

An ideation session is basically a concentrated period of brainstorming with rules of engagement.

In this sort of session one conceptualizes rather than perceptualizes. Perceptualizing is what you most commonly do in daily life – you dispense or download to others what you know about the weather, sports, children, pets, news, etc. Conceptualizing, on the other hand, is something you do only rarely – you build up a concept, synthesis, or principle from a body of information.

An example of conceptualizing is naming something that doesn’t yet have a name. Say, for example, you have a written description of a new software product, a graphic showing the text output of this software product, and a videotape of a person describing how the software product solved her word-processing problems. Your mind could potentially grasp these three inputs and call the product “WriteSmart.” That would be conceptualizing. To do this, your mind has to observe and interpret apparent relationships across the three inputs and try to infer a set of rules describing the relationships.

Since most people don’t feel comfortable conceptualizing, they have to be coached into doing so by special sessions called ideation sessions.

Ideation sessions, in turn, are based on synectics theory, which holds that the real meaning in a statement comes from places other than the pure content of the words, and semiotic analytic technique , a way of screening out distortions, contradictions, and generalizations in order to arrive at the genuine communication inherent in statements.

Phase 1: Internal depth interviews

We conduct a series of depth interviews with key decision-makers or staff members at the company. These would be people designated by the company who are familiar with the issue or problem area in question. These interviews are typically conducted in person and typically last about 45 minutes each.

We use the results of these interviews to both refine the discussion guide for Phase 2 (external depth interviews) and determine the apparent set of beliefs, expectations, assumptions, and prejudgments decision makers currently bring to bear on the issues or problems at hand. Hard experience has shown us that this sort of knowledge makes us much more incisive in the interpretation of the results from Phase 2 and the preparation of a workplan for the ideation session (Phase 3).

Phase 2: External Depth interviews

We conduct a series of depth interviews among members of the external constituencies or target audiences of the company.

We use these interviews to determine the perceptions of the company from an outside perspective on the key dimensions that bear directly on the issues at hand. These results also provide key input into the workplan for the ideation session (Phase 3).

Each interview lasts 45-60 minutes and is typically conducted in person, at the respondent’s home or place of work.

Phase 3: Preparation of the workplan

We analyze the results of the internal and external depth interviews and use the key learning as primary criteria for the workplan for the ideation session.

The workplan is essentially a statement of how we intend to use 6-8 hours of time in the ideation session. This workplan has the general look of a focus group discussion guide with some key differences relating to the style of outcome we seek.

It’s useful to show an example of how the results of depth interviews can become key criteria for a workplan. Let’s say one of the key results of our internal depth interviews is “the company needs some sort of product to prove the company has advanced itself beyond pure box thinking.” Let’s say further that one of the key results of the external interviews is “People tend to believe a claim if you can back it up with data.”

Under these circumstances one of the primary workplan criteria for the company side might be “the need to be boxless,” and this is introduced to the group during the early stages of the ideation session. Further, one of the primary workplan criteria for the customer side might be “supportability” or “empirical proof,” and this is also introduced to the group during the early stages of the ideation session.

These are among the many criteria that would be introduced to the group as inputs for ideation, similar to the inputs in the “WriteSmart” example found on page 1 of this document. (Please note, however, that the objective of an ideation session may not be solely product naming. It could be much more.)

Phase 4: Ideation session

We conduct an ideation session led by a BrandWorks moderator professionally trained in the methodology of ideation and in Synectics Theory. The session typically lasts 6-8 hours.

We typically accommodate up to eighteen (18) participants in the session. Participants are people at the company who have significant knowledge of and interest in the issue area under discussion. We ask that decision makers and staff members at the company help develop the invitation list, coordinate the timing of the session with participants, and help invite participants to the session.

Phase 5: Final report and recommendations

We prepare a final report and a set of recommendations based on the outcome of the ideation session. This report summarizes the activity in the ideation session so you can understand how we interpreted the input to arrive at our set of recommendations. We typically prepare this report as both an electronic document (such as PowerPoint) and in-person presentation.

Summing it all up

At this point we will have a dramatically new and more effective way to attract people to your brand franchise, and we will know how to communicate with people in such a way that it creates a strong desire in them to be associated with your brand. This knowledge is supported by documents such as:

  • Brand positioning statement
  • Brand identify brief
  • Brand creative brief
  • Website creative brief.

This is usually, but not always, followed up by a website technical brief (also called functional specifications) as well. The reason for this is: Most people managing brands are quite familiar with hearing their IT people tell them what’s technologically feasible on the website, and so they limit or constrain their expression of their brand to suit the technology. BrandWorks reverses this process by finding the ideal and most cogent expression of the brand regardless of technology, then matching the right technologists to the job who can actually execute on the basis of that ideal expression.

to Cascade Strategies

A highly innovative, award-winning market research and consulting firm with over 24 years’ experience in the field. Cascade provides consistent excellence in not only the traditional methodologies such as mobile surveys and focus groups, but also in cutting-edge disciplines like Predictive Analytics, Deep Learning, Neuroscience, Biometrics, Eye Tracking, Virtual Reality, and Gamification.
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