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Using Improv Principles when Ideating


Using Improv Principles when Ideating

“I’m not creative”,“I have a hard time brainstorming in a group”. So many people, including me, feel this way. In the increasing number of new product development ideation sessions we conduct with our clients, we are finding that the “set up” process is just as important as the actual ideation. “Using improv principles” helps us guide the team to think outside the box and successfully build off one another’s ideas. Here is a list of Improv Principles that we regularly use and believe help create successful ideas during an ideation or brainstorm session:

  1. Yes And…
  2. Be Present
  3. Have Fun
  4. Be Open to Failing
  5. Adapt
  6. Justify Other’s thinking
  7. Trust the Process…and yourself

The first and most important principle to follow is justifying others thinking by continually saying “yes, and….” We have found that by using this technique, it allows team members to build ideas, not kill them. It makes each team member feel comfortable and open to sharing his or her ideas – no matter how outlandish they may be. In an article titled 4 Improv Principles That Could Skyrocket Your Career, the founder of Improv on the Job, Taren Sterry states, “this principles is about accepting and building on what is offered. It’s about listening fully, then responding. It’s about investing in what’s happening in the now.”

Another similar principle we try to encourage during ideation sessions is “justify others thinking”. Most of our clients spend a lot of time having to justify their own thinking but when we brainstorm, the opposite is needed. Justifying others thinking helps everyone to get into the spirit of opening up so that ideas flow more freely.

To Build off this principle, another important thing for teams to remember is to “be present and in the moment” when ideating. It is hard for employees to shut off for an entire day, but if they are distracted by their phone or answering emails it negatively impacts the ideas generated and doesn’t help to solve the problem at hand.

Lastly, “openness to failing” is a very important principle. If members are worried that their idea will be mocked or dismissed, they are likely to retract and not offer additional ideas. If everyone is in agreement that “there are no bad ideas” the ideation session will have a positive spirit that encourages sharing and building ideas.

While all the improve principles listed above are important, we have found that the few described in detail have the biggest impact on successful sessions and help create an atmosphere that best fosters brainstorming. The key is getting team members to open up, trust the process and most importantly HAVE FUN! Once the team does this, they will trust themselves and produce better ideas.


Advice You Would Give To A College Freshman


Advice You Would Give To A College Freshman

Recently, we conducted an ideation session with one of our corporate clients to help them create promotional concepts for their next media campaign. We began the session with a practice brainwriting topic on “advice you would give a college freshman”.

All teams had 3 minutes to write as many ideas as possible on Post-its. After the brainwriting exercise, each group converged the ideas, narrowing them into themes. Below are some of the key themes based on the team’s ideas:

1) Don’t Lose Who You Are:

  • “You are smart enough…”
  • “Do the right thing”
  • “Don’t worry about what others think”
  • “Do what makes you happy”
  • “Be present”

2) Don’t Forget Who Got You Here:

  • “Call your mom”
  • “Call your dad”
  • “Take your laundry home”

3) Practical Tools To Get You Through:

post its
  • “Learn to powernap”
  • “Coffee”
  • “Don’t buy books- rent”
  • “Join groups on campus”
  • “Find a mentor”

4) Be Adventurous:

  • “Travel overseas for class”
  • “Live in the moment”
  • “Seek out people not like you”
  • “Go where others are not”
  • “Meet different people”

5) Stay Motivated And On Track:

  • “Keep your eyes on the goal”
  • “Be honest about real goals”
  • “Look ahead”
  • “Don’t procrastinate”
  • “You can change the world”

This practice brainwriting session was a great way to get the participants thinking creatively and helped lead the group through a successful ideation session. We also came away with great advice for those entering their freshman year of college. Now that I’m thinking about it...this advice would have been valuable to know when I was a college freshman!


What Women Want

What Women Want

“Tahiti is sexier than selling toilet paper.” Graceann Bennett from Ogilvy Chicago grabbed everyone’s attention in one of the early morning sessions yesterday. She, along with Debbie Solomon of MindShare and Beth Uyenco of Microsoft led an incredible workshop: From Dull to Delightful: Digital Paths to Filling the Shopping Cart! In their work for Kimberly-Clark, they knew consumers felt that shopping for toilet paper is the #1 most annoying thing to shop for. They wanted to know, "how do you create and build true brand management with a product that is annoying?"

Well, you guessed it, they conducted a LOT of research! It included 62 media diaries, 12 insight group discussions, ethnographies, idea stations (an online chat room), mindshare omnibus study, digital domain, digital trend analysis, and cultural deep dive. And they did this with women across all life stages. Whew!

They conducted the research with women across life stages…and they learned a lot about women, especially what women want in the “digital” arena.

During the workshop, they gave us a little quiz to test our female I.Q. Let’s see how you do…

• How many words does the average woman speak per day vs. men? (answer: 7000 vs. 2000)

• How many women have smart phones? (answer: 10 million and this number doubled in the past year)

• How many women are gamers? (answer: 59% of women are gamers and 70% of women played a PC game in the last month)

Through their research with these women, they found 3 distinct “digital segments: Digital Outliers (9%), Mainstream Users (75%) and Digital Divas (16%). And while they cited many life stage differences across the segments, they also noted several commonalities. Primarily, women like real content by real people. Women are not only trusting friends for advice on products, they are also using “advice from strangers” as a source for help. YouTube has become a primary source for getting “product advice” because of the high touch content it provides. This YouTube video was cited as a touching example of a father explaining to his daughter how to cut a mango.

Good example of online content women want.

It was interesting to note that when you’re selling products that are “annoying” such as toilet paper, you don’t necessarily have to be top of mind, you just have to make it easy for her and it is becoming critical to do that online. One consumer quote they gave says it best, “I actually have a subscription for my paper products and detergent on”