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Breakthrough Innovation with Co-Creation

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Tue, Jun 06, 2017

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Innovative companies have long recognized that failure can be an important step on the way to success. Brands are told to “quicken the pace of innovation”, “try new things” and “don’t be afraid to fail”. But these days there’s little room for failure: the stakes are high and there’s more pressure than ever for brands to innovate. Customers have spoken and it’s time for brands to listen—to be customer-centric.

So how can brands challenge themselves to innovate and to try new things without wasting time and money?

Co-creation can help you innovate and sometimes, fail faster. This innovative approach is based on principles of Improvisation and System 1 / System 2 thinking and brings brands and customers together to ideate and build out promising new ideas, products, and services. Co-creation inserts customers directly into the conversation—not through a survey or by listening from behind the glass, but by working right next to you. Our approach lets you collaborate with your customers to decide what the issues are, where the pain points occur, where joy happens and where the opportunities lie. Then together you build that future.

Technological advances, including social media, 24/7 news, online reviews and the resulting rapid word-of-mouth, have put customers in the driver seat. It’s no longer brands talking to customers, rather, it’s a two-way conversation. Brands need to listen intently, be accessible and available, and authentically work with their consumers, instead of working in isolation, creating products and services that often don’t address customers’ needs, or messaging that misses the mark.

Co-creation eliminates the guessing game in an energetic and productive day or ½ day workshop. Facilitated by an expert moderator, a group of cross-functional stakeholders together with customers, collaborate at an offsite, creative space. Pre-work is assigned to upskill and orient participants to the topic. Using divergent and convergent methods, in plenary, small group and individual exercises, you jointly explore the relevant topic, ideate scores of new ideas and begin to build out the future, together. 

At CMB, our Innovation team has successfully led co-creation sessions for large CPG brands, insurance clients, academic institutions, hospitality execs and more.  We have explored food, beverages, loyalty, apparel, deductibles and education with Gen Z, Millennials, Moms, sneaker heads, professors, underwriters, patients, and probably your customer. 

Want to see co-creation in action? Check out this recent video of a workshop we facilitated in NYC for a global leader in hospitality.

Kathy Ofsthun is the Vice President of Qualitative Strategy + Innovation.  She is a facilitator and RIVA trained moderator and has co-created with clients and their customers in the Hospitality, CPG, Insurance and Academic industries.  Her Twitter handle is @ShopperMRX as Kathy loves to shop, hoarding shoes from heels to hiking boots.

 

Topics: product development, qualitative research, growth and innovation, co-creation

7 Things Yoga Can Teach Us About Product Innovation

Posted by Judy Melanson

Thu, May 04, 2017

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Last month I spent a week in Costa Rica attending a yoga retreat and returned home feeling relaxed and balanced. As I reflected upon what I learned, I realized that what was driving my positive feelings can be applied equally well to driving success in new product innovation.

I recently wrote an article commending brands for thinking “outside the box” to drive innovation, so this parallel struck me as a relevant and timely follow up. Here are the seven steps:

Step 1: Remove Distractions

At the retreat, we were encouraged to remove distractions that interfere with being present and mindful. Try this: take a couple deep breaths, focus on steady breathing, and try to quiet your mind. Once your mind is clear, you may find yourself at peace, more relaxed, and with space to visualize your goals. Similarly, when embarking on new product innovation, a company needs to remove distractions, ground itself, and make space to visualize its goal(s). 

Step 2: Articulate the goal and visualize a successful future

Now you have space to identify your goals and visualize the futureto explore your personal purpose and to consider your North Star (your guidance). Similarly, brands must recognize and articulate the purpose of its new product innovation:  Why is innovation important (or necessary) to the organization? What are the desired outcomes? Is it attracting new (next generation) customers or reengaging current ones?  What brand benefits (or positioning) can be leveraged?  What is the North Star: Where will success take the organization? 

Step 3: Identify the roadblocks

To progress along the path of personal development, at the retreat we identified the barriers to achieving our goal. This is personal and can be challenging, but if roadblocks aren’t identified early on, it’s possible that you’ll run into them later. What’s holding the organization back? Is there anyone or anything that is preventing/hindering innovation? How can these obstacles be overcome?

Not all barriers are negative. When I’m working with clients on new product development, we look for the constraints–the rules by which the innovation must exist. While it’s tempting to chafe at the constraintsto react negatively to existing guiderailswe’ve learned about their value. Without any constraints, it’s easy to lose your way. Paradoxically then, these constraints can become a tool of innovation.  

Step 4: Stretch your thinking

With your mind clear, goals outlined, and obstacles identified, it’s time to start moving. Brands need to step outside their comfort zone into an expanded way of thinking, so develop an action plan to stretch your perspective and view of what’s possible. For me at the retreat, the action that brought me out of my comfort zone was yoga dance (!!), but brands should consider other methods. How about running a Co-Creation session? Or instead engage a panel of thought leaders or futurists on perceptions of where the industry is headed. Perhaps reach out to some Gen Z-ers, artists, or hackerssomeone who will make you think differently. If a brand is open and mindful, it’ll find points of inspiration. 

And remember to keep goingeven when you think you’re done. Just like in yoga, the work starts when you’re getting tired.

Step 5: Draw from and reflect energy back to your community

Sometimes it feels like you’re the sole voice of change, but recognize that you are part of a greater ecosystem. In yoga, this community is called your “sangha” and can provide strength, power, and support when you need it. Seek it out. Listen for it. Feel it. Innovation demands teamwork and collaboration across multiple teams, so leverage these different insights and perspectives.

Step 6: Service for others

At the retreat, I learned that yoga is something far more powerful than a fitness routine or a timeout from a busy life. Yoga is a transformative tool that enables you to show up for others and be of service to them. Similarly, an organization seeking innovation needs to act in service of its consumers. It must believe in and clearly articulate the benefit innovation provides to the consumer. Focus on how it will positively serve the consumer instead of the features and functionality it provides.

I’ve been in sales for most of my life, but I’ve never considered myself a “salesperson”.  I like to consider myself a “facilitator”—someone who helps people/brands accomplish their goals. I’m motivated by this place of serving others.

Step 7:  Commit to daily practice

Innovation that drives business results doesn’t happen overnight, and just like yoga, it requires continual practice and study. Even after you’ve launched a new product, you and your team should commit to reviewing results and continued adaptation and growth. My suggestion for daily practice: Turn off your email and go for a walk. Stretch your thinking and listen carefully to those with different perspectives. Be open to learning. Give yourself permission to fail. Just keep trying and never give up.  

I hope these learnings can help ground and focus your plans for new product innovation. I hope you find yourself more confident in your path, with a stronger sense of your organizational purpose and a franker assessment of the barriers. I hope you feel better aligned with the opportunity and to your community. I hope you feel more flexible while still being focused on your goal. 

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 Namaste (Peace).

Judy Melanson leads the Travel and Entertainment practice at CMB, focused on helping companies prioritize operational and marketing investments to drive positive business results.  An empty nester, Judy now has time in her life to enjoy painting, running and, obviously, yoga!

Topics: product development, growth and innovation

Don’t get ganked! What the rise of esports can teach us about building products that survive

Posted by Josh Fortey

Tue, Mar 14, 2017

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PAX East just left town and if you don’t know what esports is—let alone what “ganked” means—you’re missing out. While traditional team sports continue to rule the roost in the American sports landscape, esports have become the fastest growing spectator sport.

To put this into perspective, the 2016 NBA championship finals game garnered 31 million viewers, the highest count of a NBA finals on both ABC and ESPN in over 10 years. Yet more people—36 million in 2015 and 43 million in 2016— tuned in to watch some of the world’s best League of Legends teams battle it out across the Summoners Rift for the world championship crown. But these remarkable figures aren’t unique to League of Legends. Twitch, the world’s largest gaming-orientated streaming platform, clocked in 95 million hours of esports streaming across the top 10 esports titles in January 2017 alone. And that 95 million hours of esports streaming is just one third of all the streaming that happened in January for these top ten esports titles. In addition to these staggering numbers, esports has effectively carved out a niche of digitally-engaged younger gamers; approximately 1-in-5 of all Millennials are now regularly watching esports online.

Based on this strong viewership, it’s no surprise that the esports category is estimated to surpass the $1.5 billion mark by 2020. But looking beyond these remarkable numbers, esports serves as an excellent example of an industry—comprised of brands, publishers, and developers—that continues to successfully deliver on rapidly changing consumer needs despite being in a constant state of adaptation, progression, and evolution. These factors are all important in understanding the meteoric rise of esports, but they also serve up a number of lessons about listening to your customers. Lessons that brands, marketers, and product innovators must learn if they want to develop products that stand the test of time:

  • Deliver meaningful experiences. The esports graveyard is littered with failed games that sent the right message to consumers and appeared to have the “winning formula”, but ultimately just didn’t cut it. Let’s look at Infinite Crisis. Infinite Crisis launched with all the makings of "the next big thing” in esports gaming: development by Turbine, the reputable gaming studio owned by Warner Bros., financial backing from a major IP in DC Comics, a spin on the hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, an extensive beta testing phase, and a highly accessible free-to-play business model. But despite these attributes, just two months after launch, development of Infinite Crisis ended. Why? Because its makers failed to nurture a critical mass of consumers across a generic gaming audience and ignored users’ complaints of unbalanced gameplay. Infinite Crisis serves as an example of what can happen when a brand doesn’t consider what its community of users/customers is telling them about their experience.
  • Nurture your community. The Infinite Crisis example also emphasizes the importance of nurturing and listening to your community. The growth of esports is largely driven by its engaged users, and so fostering these communities is key. Fostering a community is mutually beneficial to the brand and the user—the brand enjoys increased user retention while its customers have the satisfaction of knowing they are valued.
  • Community interactivity and engagement. Brands committed to their customer communities enjoy a more genuine dialogue with their users—ultimately helping strengthen customer loyalty. Strong brands recognize this as a cornerstone to a successful esports game. Take gaming giant Blizzard and its wildly successful game Overwatch. Overwatch developers pay close attention to feedback provided on their forums (underscores the importance of my first point, too), updates users on product developments, enhancements, and innovations (or product patches), and provide detailed product roadmaps. In the world of gaming, players aren’t just customers; they’re fans, loyalists, and advocates who deserve to be engaged and updated.
  • Embed consumers in product development. When gaming companies foster a community, they open up the possibility of embedding consumers into the early stages of product development. Across many of the most successful competitive gaming titles, publishers rely on the customer voice to formulate and enhance the brand experience from early alpha testing to open public test environments. Dota 2, a successful MOBA title, takes an innovative approach to embedding customers into its esports product strategy by crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. For example, the proceeds from players’ in-game cosmetic (items that don’t affect gameplay) purchases are partially donated to its competitive tournaments prize pools. Users can also create their own cosmetic items that can be sold through an online marketplace. Both initiatives resulted in Dota 2 customers amassing a staggering $20 million in prize money for its 2016 world championship tournament, The International—the largest overall prize pool in esports history.

Esports and competitive gaming are gleaming examples of how an industry has successfully used its customers’ voice to create sustainable and attractive products/experiences. It also demonstrates the perils of ignoring customer needs. Infinite Crisis is just one example among myriad others, including Dawngate, Battleborn and Minions. If there’s an overarching lesson to be learned from the explosive success of esports, it’s that brands should first and foremost prioritize the needs of its customers.

Josh Fortey is a Project Manager at CMB who is all too familiar with the feeling of being “ganked”.

Topics: product development, customer experience and loyalty, digital media and entertainment research, growth and innovation

CMB Conference Recap: Uncovering Innovation - the Clay Street Project at P&G

Posted by Ed Loessi

Mon, May 23, 2016

Light_bulb_with_plant.jpgThis month, I had the opportunity to attend the Front End of Innovation conference here in Boston. One of the most exciting keynote addresses was provided by Karen Hershenson, Leader of the Clay Street Project at Procter & Gamble (P&G) and was titled Innovation from the Inside-Out. The idea of innovation from the inside-out is especially intriguing to me, because CMB has committed to extensive efforts in product development and innovation. We’ve formed an innovation group within the company—drawing participation from people all across the organization. Having been involved in innovation programs for the better part of 10 years, I've learned innovation is not a one-size fit all proposition and that it’s essential to learn from other leaders and companies about how they harness innovation within their organizations. Karen’s story and ideas did not disappoint.

5 Key Lessons from the Clay Street Project:

Karen leads a team of designers, educators, and marketers that solve innovation challenges for P&G brands and noncompetitive Fortune 500 companies. The group—the Clay Street Project—was formed in 2004 and has been instrumental in building innovation teams, individual innovation and creative skills, and impacting many P&G brands. The group is often tasked to solve problems that keep their leaders up at night, addressing cross-business-unit challenges, and looking at entirely new products, or processes that have hit roadblocks.

Karen highlighted some of the key things that drive the delivery of innovation for Clay Street and P&G including:

  • Use a defining question – “How might we?”: I found this to be an excellent question because it's entirely open-ended, it doesn’t pre-suppose or seek to direct a particular path, it just asks “how” and lets the person take that first step.
  • Create the conditions, innovation from the inside out: This is essential. Innovation is not something that can be mandated. Innovation is something you seed, water, nurture, and see what happens, course correcting along the way. On their website, Clay Street notes that innovation is a by-product of work, team, and systems and that many organizations make the mistake of focusing on only one of those, which kills the entire process.
  • “All practitioners of innovation have a process, and we're no different”: I, in particular, liked this idea. I could clearly see the team has a process, but it’s an open process. The process of starting with the right question and creating conditions, which seems a bit fluid, are in fact a process. It’s just that the process doesn’t dictate how you work, nor does it say that your challenge can be solved using this templated idea. By letting the team figure these things out on their own, it’s more likely they’ll learn the lessons and that knowledge will stay with them as they move out into the organization.
  • Help teams deliver better long-term value: Ultimately, this is the mission of the Clay Street Project. Innovation impacts so many areas within a company, and there are many individual measures along the way, but in the end, it’s about better long-term value.
  • Understand your environment: As a global company, P&G requires deep consumer insight and long product pipelines filled with solutions for many different types of customers. The types of innovation that P&G need are different from other companies. There are many innovation methods and philosophies to embrace, but you must choose the ones that match your company’s culture and customer environment.

I saw many things within Clay Street’s guiding principles that are relevant to CMB. In particular, the need to create the conditions for innovation. As a company, CMB has been innovating for three+ decades; we may not have always called it innovation, but we have now put a stake in the ground, and we are calling it out, putting resources towards harnessing innovation as a defining principle. We are clear in our minds that innovation is how we are going to create long-term value for our clients and the company. Finally, we understand our environment, which is part of a rapidly changing service and information industry. Market research is being impacted by technology, changing service models, big data, and client competition. Our need for innovation has its drivers, but I could see that it has many of the same requirements as those of a larger multi-national company like P&G.

Ed is the Director of Product Development and Innovation at CMB. He thinks there is a game changing product or idea within everyone and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi

Topics: product development, consumer insights, conference recap, growth and innovation

Dear Dr. Jay: Discrete Choice—How Many Is Too Many Features?

Posted by Dr. Jay Weiner

Wed, Mar 23, 2016

Dear Dr. Jay,

I’m interested in testing a large number of features for inclusion in the next version of my product. My team is suggesting that we need to cull the list down to a smaller set of items to run a choice model. Are there ways to test a large set of attributes in a choice model?

-Nick


 DRJAY.pngHi Nick –

There are a number of ways to test a large set of attributes in choice modeling. Most of the time, when we test a large number of features, many are simply binary attributes (included/not included). While this makes the experimental design larger, it’s not quite as bad as having ten six-level attributes. If the description is short enough, you might go ahead and just include all of them. If you’re concerned about how much reading a respondent will need to do—or you really wouldn’t offer a respondent 12 additional perks for choosing your credit card—you could put a cap on the number of additional features any specific offer includes. For example, you could test 15 new features in a single model, but respondents would only get up to 5 at any single time. This is actually better than using a partial profile design as all respondents would see all offers. 

Another option is to do some sort of bridging study where you test all of the features using a max diff task. You can include a subset of the factors in a DCM and then use the max diff utilities to compute the utility for the full list of features in the DCM. This allows you to include the full set of features in your simulation tool.

Dr. Jay loves designing really big, complex choice models.  With over 20 years of DCM experience, he’s never met a design challenge he couldn’t solve. 

Topics: advanced analytics, product development, Dear Dr. Jay