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There’s More to Hot Sauce than Meets the Tongue – How to Jumpstart Business Idea Generation

Posted by Plish on March 7, 2018

Hot sauces

They’re everywhere.  From mild to scorching, these heat packed condiments can perk up almost any dish – if perky is what you want.

How do we come up with new ways of growing a hot sauce business?

There are multiple ways to come up with new business ideas.  One of the processes I use for generating multiple ideas quickly is illustrated below.  It’s based on a simple process.

  1. List the traits/attributes of a specific product/service (I use VUE) Those are shown in purple in the concept map below. (Color coding helps tremendously in keeping track of ideas.  I could even do more color coding by group)
  2. Think of ways of enhancing or changing the attributes.  These are the ideas. These are shown in green.
  3. Let one idea lead to another – don’t censor yourself!

Hot Pepper Ideas-copy.pngThe PDF of the above document is here


This use of Attributes can be even further structured. While I just took traits as they popped into my mind, there are other tools that I use that are slightly more structured and they can be used to guide idea generation.

(In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m actually using these additional frameworks, it’s just second nature and I don’t think about it as much.)

It’s about POEMS

Not poetry, but POEMS. This acronym was developed by the folks over at the Illinois Institute of Technology-Institute of Design. The POEMS framework is not actually an idea generating tools per se.    It is a research framework. It provides a memorable way to code/categorize observations.  However, I use it  as a way to jump start ideation.

POEMS is an acronym for:






For each of the above, list everything you know about each one and then subtract, add or change the attribute.

People – Who uses this?  Using the Pepper Sauce example, people typically think of hot sauce as geared towards adults.  What about making a hot sauce for children?

Objects – What are the objects that people interact with?  Bottles, the sauce itself which is made up of vinegar, spices, sugar, peppers, etc.  Eliminate the bottles.  Eliminate an ingredient.

Environment – Where are the products or services used?  Where are hot sauces used? Kitchens, at the meal table, in a car.  Where can the use of hot sauces be extended?  Can where they’re made be changed?  

Messages/Media – What messages are typically conveyed?  What do labels and other media look like? For Hot Sauce, why do labels always using scary, intimidating images?  Can a container label be inviting and gentle?

Services – How are products delivered?  How are they sampled? How are they bundled?  What places have hot sauces?  There are health values to the capsaicin, what about selling that idea/product at boutique spas?  What about developing medicinally spike pepper sauces?  What could you add to give them more nutritional value?

If POEMS isn’t fruitful try AEIOU.

It’s similar to POEMS, but AEIOU gives a slightly different twist. Each framework can give you new ideas.

Activities – What do people want to accomplish, what needs to get done
Environments – The setting and context
Interactions – Are between people/people, people/objects, objects/objects
Objects – The things in the environment, things people use
Users – The people using the product, trying to accomplish something

So, there you have it.  What do you do to jump-start new ideas?

NOTE: If you actually want to try out a hot sauce idea, let me know 😉


Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, product design, Service Design, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want to Innovate? Don’t Forget the Prosciutto! (It’s not just about food)

Posted by Plish on January 25, 2018


This doesn’t look impressive does it?

But it smells and tastes delicious!!

What does this have to do with innovation?


The Road to Innovation is Paved with Prosciutto

The other day I was poaching an egg for breakfast.  I had some baked prosciutto chips that I had made a few days earlier.  I didn’t want to throw the crunchy pieces on the finished egg so I figured I’d re-hydrate them by throwing them in the water with the egg.

A mouthwatering aroma started rising from the water…

When the egg was done I took the egg and soft prosciutto out of the water.

I ate the egg and prosciutto with a slice of flax bread, and it was tasty.  But, I was intrigued by what I was still smelling in the pot.    I took a spoon and tasted it.

…hmmmm…not bad…

I poured some into a ramekin, added salt and pepper.

…Wow! REALLY good!

I immediately recorded what I had done in Evernote, along with some ideas for how I could use this stock next time.

After cleaning up, I did some searching and found that prosciutto stocks are a known delicacy. So, while I hadn’t discovered something totally new, nonetheless it was something we would call an innovation.

How did we go from poached egg with Prosciutto (everyday thing) to Innovation (Prosciutto Stock)?

Notice that the innovation isn’t even what I was going for.  I didn’t create a crazy type  of prosciutto egg.   I made prosciutto stock.

How did this happen?

During the course of one experiment (trying to soften the prosciutto while poaching the egg) I made an observation, remember?

A mouthwatering aroma started rising from the water…

When experimenting, pay attention with all the senses – be present, be mindful.  Poaching an egg typically involves sight, touch and a sense of time.  The senses of smell and sound don’t typically come into play.  I could’ve ignored what I was smelling, but I didn’t.

I took a spoon and tasted it.

I almost threw out the cooking water, but I was curious.  I knew that if something smells good it usually tastes good.

Don’t ignore your curiosity – Follow through on it!  You will be rewarded as I was.

hmmmm…not bad…

Refine what you discovered.  Experiment with the results of your experiment.  Understand its limits.  Explore the potential of your new discovery!

Wow! REALLY good.

That’s great, but what’s the next step?

Record the discovery.  Understand its import.  Continue to build upon the discovery.

But don’t just sit on it.

See what others have done. Check if the idea is worth protecting.  Compare and continue to build upon the concept.

So there you have it.  Next time you’re experimenting or testing a prototype, don’t just rigidly perform and interpret an experiment.

Engage all the senses in the experiment. 

Be present to everything, even your feelings and how you’re responding to what you’re experiencing.  Yes,  “Why?” is an important question to ask.

What’s better when you’ve discovered something,  is to ask yourself if what you’re experiencing has the potential to be good or bad.  Don’t assume you know the answer! Be brutally honest with yourself, and if you don’t know if something is good or bad, find a way to quickly perform a test to find the answer.

You’ll be rewarded 🙂







Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Food, idea generation, innovation, observation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want A New Year’s Resolution to Increase Your Innovation Output? – Try This

Posted by Plish on January 2, 2018

Happy New Year!!

Yes, it’s the new year.  A fresh slate.  It’s time for that time honored tradition of making resolutions.

In the world of innovation, there is one resolution you can make that will result in more creative ideas, more really creative innovations.

But before we make that resolution, Let’s Toast with a Heineken!

Heineken’s interactive, Ignite beer bottle is a thing to behold.  It’s not just a passive hunk of glass that holds a liquid.  It’s an active participant, sensing and responding, thus encouraging certain behaviors.

But their work has gone beyond the bottle.  Heineken also uses IoT and AR to increase sales and optimize the sales and distribution process.

The point here is that Heineken is not just seeing themselves as providing beer.  They see themselves as providing an experience.  From the store to the nightclub, they understand that people have lives, they act in certain ways in certain situations. When designing products with this in mind, not only does Heineken see improved sales and distribution, but people enjoy the product more!

What does this have to do with the New Year’s Resolution?

Everything.   Great innovations come from great ideas that dive into the depths of reality.  In Heineken’s case, these innovations come from a shift in perspective.  They look beyond the obvious and embrace the breadth and depth of the product experience.

At the heart of these innovations is a realization that for every action there is not only a reaction but a pre-action, and there are reasons for these actions.

Let’s Buy a Hammer

I want to buy a hammer to drive a nail into a wall.  Chances are, I don’t just want a nail in a wall.  I want to hang a picture.  But, I don’t just want to hang a picture, I want to beautify the room, or bring back a memory.  You see where this is going.

Most hammer manufacturers are making something to drive a nail.  It’s why hammers are virtually unchanged for decades.  They focus on efficient nail driving. But,  the nail is more than that, and in fact, it’s part of the process to create an experience – it’s not just about driving nails. (Other companies have realized that.  Nail-less hangers and non-marring adhesives all get at the ‘hanging’ part of the process.  But they still don’t necessarily see the whole picture. HA! No pun intended 😉 )

Heineken, on the other hand, is exploring the many tentacles of before, after, during and why.  Beer is purchased and consumed in specific contexts.   It’s not just a bottle.  It’s part of an experience.  We share a toast.  We drink in clubs.  We clink bottles.  We savor and feel the beat of the music.  The bottle is in the midst of all this, and it’s a shame that it’s been a passive part of that experience. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  

The bottle can enrich the experience. 

It can participate in the club environment – it can sense and respond, and because it does, it creates it’s own feedback.  We gain pleasure from experiencing the bottle and its contents, so we encourage and repeat certain behaviors.

At the end of the day though, it’s not about bottles. It’s about innovative products and services that bring exciting and memorable experiences.

So let’s make that Resolution!

I resolve to look for, and design for, the Truth behind the Reality.

whoa…. that’s deep.

Not really.   It’s just a more thorough way of innovating.

Explore context. Explore ritual.  Explore relationships.  Explore meaning.

Personally I like the AEIOU framework:

A: Activities are goal directed sets of actions – things which people want to accomplish

E: Environments include the entire arena where activities take place

I: Interactions are between a person and someone or something else, and are the building blocks of activities

O: Objects are building blocks of the environment, key elements sometimes put to complex or unintended uses, changing their function, meaning and context

U: Users are the consumers, the people providing the behaviors, preferences and needs (Christina Wasson, quoting E-Lab, 1977)

Courtesy of https://www.10000ft.com/design-recipes/aeiou-research-framework

There are other systems like POEMS, POSTA, etc., but the point of them all is to find and design for the truth behind the reality.  Look at the big picture – don’t settle for the obvious!

The Reality: I want drive a nail into a wall

The Truth Behind the Reality: I want to take a step to beautify a room with a picture from a vacation to remind everyone of the great memories there

The Reality: I want to have a cold beer at a night club

The Truth Behind the Reality: I want to have fun!  I want a night of memories, a night of interaction!

The Reality:  A surgeon wants to cut a hole in the skin

The Truth Behind the Reality: A surgeon wants to quickly and easily place a device. The surgeon wants the patient to feel better so that she can go to her grand-daughter’s wedding in a week.

Where do you think the innovations are going to come from?

Designing for “The Reality” or for “The Truth Behind the Reality”?

Sure, innovation can come from just designing for “The Reality”.  In a world where all that is needed are nails driven into a surface, a new design of hammer – a nail gun – will be hailed as an innovation.    But let’s look at the “Truth Behind the Reality”:    How will people with nail guns interact with each other and the nails?  What about being able to use it in cold, or heat, or rain, or underwater?  Are we just putting up boards or building a house that will be a home? What about types of materials being nailed?  Who is buying the nail driver?  Are nail drivers even necessary?

See the difference?  Ideas will start flowing once we look under the surface.

The choice is yours

You can choose to design for “The Reality”.  You can make another hammer, another beer, another beer container.

But understand the “Truth Behind the Reality” and you will design products and services that Ignite experiences.

Make the resolution and stick to it.  

I resolve to look for, and design for, the Truth behind the Reality.

The world will thank you!




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Use This Simple but Underused Technique for Being More Creative (and get a bonus!)

Posted by Plish on September 6, 2017

Wouldn’t it be great if solutions to our problems came to us from alternate universes? Places where the laws of nature may be different?  Where wonderful and fascinating things occur on a regular basis?

Guess what – they do.

They’re called our dreams.

All you have to do is remember and keep track of them.

Researchers have determined that logging dreams actually aids creative thinking.  From the abstract:

Enhanced dream recall through daily dream logging fosters aspects of creativity. Associations between creativity, dissociation, and thinness of boundaries, suggest that increased awareness to dreams increases creativity through a “loosening” of stereotyped thinking pattern.

The challenge then is to be able to remember what the heck we dreamed in the first place.  I researched multiple sites but at the end of the day, Amy Cope summarized the best ways to remember dreams here. I’ll paraphrase below with a few supplements 🙂

  1. Write the dreams down.  Don’t worry about catching every aspect of the dream.  Words, images, fragments, feelings, concerns associated with the dream, all are important.
  2. Seems obvious,  but make sure the journal is handy.
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine prior to sleep
  4. B-Vitamins
  5. Various herbs also increase vividness of dreams (the more vivid the better the chances of remembering them).  Calea Zacatechichi is one such herb.
  6. Eat foods high in melatonin
  7. Prime yourself for remembering your dreams.  Tell yourself: “I will remember my dreams” or “In the morning I will remember my dreams.”
  8. Set your alarm 20 minutes early.  This could in theory interrupt a dream and thus make it easier to remember.  However, some people get too startled when woken from a dream and they are so rattled they ‘shake loose’ the dream and forget it.
  9. Don’t move when getting out of bed. Use gentle movements to record the dreams.  Sometimes assuming the position you were in prior to waking  up and closing your eyes can take you back to the images/etc. of your dream.  Keep your eyes closed. Stay with the dream for a while. Meditate on the meanings.
  10. If you don’t remember anything, think of other dreams you’d had, or common images, movies you’ve seen, anything that might provide a connection to what you just saw.

The Mindful Dreamer site has this great tip (In addition to many of the above tips): If you’ve got a problem that you need answered, write it down before going to bed.  It gives you something to start with before sleep and something to pick up on when you wake up.

Dreamstudies.org has this Snooze Method for remembering dreams.  It’s pretty much summarized above, but for the detailed method, check here.

Oh, and what’s the bonus I mentioned in the headline?

In addition to being more creative, if you practice the above regularly, the quality of your sleep will go up as well. 🙂






Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, innovation, problem solving, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Four Key Words That Open Doors to Innovation

Posted by Plish on February 15, 2017

Robots made of water.

No, those aren’t the four words.

Researchers at MIT developed a hydrogel robot.  It’s soft.  It grips.  It’s almost invisible underwater.  In short, it’s a totally cool technology.  (Hydrogels are cool materials on their own) Now, they’re trying to understand what it can be used for.

‘Let’s play with this’. – Hyunwoo Yuk, MIT Graduate Student

Those are the four words.

Let’s play with this.

Once a technology is discovered, the challenge is often one of finding a problem to the solution.  One of the best ways to do that is to play.

What is play comprised of?

It’s essentially saying, “What if…?” and exploring.

It’s a matter of taking something and just seeing what happens when it’s subjected to some other stressors.  It’s a collision of ideas.  It’s taking what is and exploring what it may be.

The inventor of cornflakes, Keith Kellogg, left boiled wheat out overnight.  Instead of throwing it out, he took the flaky dough (took ‘what is’) and decided to bake it anyway (exploring).  A crunchy  cereal and a business was born.

Take chances – Explore!

Keep your eyes peeled for new technologies.  Don’t necessarily use them for what they’re intended.  Try using them for something else.  That collision of metaphors, of what is and what may be when something is used differently, are fruitful soil for new products and new business opportunities.

What am I playing with now?

I saw the Walabot, and knew I had to get one for my lab.  A cool RF radar technology, seems like it can have myriads of uses.  The company’s website tag is: Create, Play, Discover.

Let’s PLAY with this!!!!!


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The Innovator’s New Year Resolution

Posted by Plish on January 10, 2017

Twenty-Nine Percent

That’s the percentage of people that aren’t keeping their resolutions after 2 weeks.

What I’m going to propose a is pleasant and powerful resolution that Innovators of all types have implemented in their lives.



Great discoveries, great designs, innovations of all types,  occurred when people saw the significant hidden in the insignificant.  Be open to the unexpected and don’t belittle the insignificant!


In fact, the history of the human race is replete with people who have humble, insignificant beginnings, or were viewed as insignificant people because of the color of their skin, the country or caste of their birth, their religion, their sex – they were viewed as people who weren’t worth paying attention to.  Yet, these people changed the world.


Pay attention.  Look deeply at the insignificant.  Don’t just cast it away and call it “waste”,”lesser”, “pointless”, “negligible”, “inconsequential”.


Only when you appreciate everything will you see opportunities for improvement, for elevation, for partnerships,  renewal, growth, friendships and more.  Missed opportunities will be few and far between.


Often the insignificant is only insignificant because it hasn’t been given the opportunity to be significant.  Empower.  Elevate.  Understanding the insignificance enables you to create significance.


Design a better world.  People are yearning to be more, experience more.  You are the one to provide it. It starts with open eyes, an open mind and an open heart.

It starts with you…






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Autodesk’s “Innovation Genome”: A ‘How-To’ Primer and Resource

Posted by Plish on November 8, 2016

I love it when folks share their insights into innovation, especially when they share as prolifically as the folks over at Autodesk do.

If you, like I have, have checked out the new products in Autodesk Labs, you probably wonder how they are able to create really cool product after cool product.  The reason is simple: it’s because they don’t innovate in a chaotic manner.  They have a process that guides and informs their product development efforts: the Autodesk Innovation Genome.

This Innovation method is the result of 10+ years of analyzing over 350 innovations from the history of the world (their goal is to examine 1000!).  The wisdom from these innovations is then distilled and codified to enable them use the insights repeatably. (This is very similar to how the TRIZ problem solving methodology was developed)

How Does It Work?

The process is essentially five steps.

Steps One and Two establish Context and Direction.

Step Three is at the heart of this process – the Seven Questions.

(While there are 7 buckets here, I find them a little too abstract on their own. They do have a 49 question chart – shown below – that is  much more useful in my opinion.)

(The above chart includes questions from other idea prompting methods like SCAMPER. )

Of course, ideas don’t mean anything without a method to commercialize, so steps four and five are about prioritizing and executing.

I could go into this even more, but really, just head over to the Innovation Genome and check it out for yourself. There are multiple excellent resources there. Study, learn, modify/apply, share.

The world awaits your innovations…


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Want Better Brainstormings?

Posted by Plish on October 11, 2016

I came across this interesting article over at FastCompany.  The title of the article is “You’re Probably Not Brainstorming Long Enough.”   The short of it is that just when things get tough, and the ideas start drying up, that’s the time when the great ideas are just around the corner.  Just go longer, do a “Brain marathon.”

I definitely agree that often the great ideas start coming after the obvious ideas are exhausted.  Heck, my last post was about this very topic. 🙂  However, the problem with the marathon concept is that it’s unnecessary.  I’ve said it before:

Brainstorming should be a process, not an event.

Give yourself, and others, time to plan and ideate.

Your brain, >YOU< need to take time to understand the problem, process it, think of alternatives, sketch, prototype, play.  There’s no need to force it to occur in the span of an 8 hour day.

Instead of pushing everyone into a room for a half day or more, spend some time setting up the actual ‘event’.  Give people the problem statement.  Prime the pump, get people thinking about the problem and possible solutions on their own or in small groups of two. (If you want a copy of the template I use for initiating and planning a brainstorm, click here and send me a message 🙂 )  Then, and only then, after everyone has had a chance to ruminate, then have the actual session.

But Plish, why brainstorm if everyone has already thought of ideas?  

Isaac Asimov sums it up nicely (from his, “How do people get new ideas?“):

It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon.

Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant. However, if one person mentions the unusual combination of A-B and another the unusual combination A-C, it may well be that the combination A-B-C, which neither has thought of separately, may yield an answer.

In other words, the focus of the actual session is to cross-pollinate, to share ideas, to create new combinations from existing ideas.  What I’ve also noticed is that brand new ideas also surface during this time.

But perhaps most important, when people think in little portions well in advance of an ideation session, they don’t have to drink from a marathon fire-hose.  Instead of a full day event, 2-4 hours is sufficient.   No one gets worn out and the quality of the ideation session is much better.

After this shorter session, combine all the ideas, redistribute them to all the team and let them make even more new connections.

After that, then pick the ideas that are worth moving forward on and prototype some more.

When all is said and done, there’s no reason for a single, exhausting marathon session (remember, legend has it the first marathon runner died after delivering news of a military victory!).

Put some planning into the process and not only will you save frustration getting  great ideas, you save time.




Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, innovation, problem solving, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How to Use A.C.E. to Improve the Quality of Your Ideas

Posted by Plish on September 16, 2016


Name at least 10 ways to use a brick.  Take a couple minutes and write them down.  If you don’t get 10, that’s ok.

Here’s a list I quickly made up.

  • paperweight
  • window breaker
  • block for building a wall
  • Weight for muscle training
  • shoes for a low gravity planet
  • Sundial (if stood on end)
  • Writing Utensil on a rough surface
  • Toy Boat for a sea of mercury
  • Temperature regulator (Hot Pack/Cold Pack – Freeze the brick to keep things cold or heat it up and drop it in a container to keep it warm)
  • Electrical Insulator (Use for a capacitor or transformer)
  • Thermal Insulator -keep Hot from Cold
  • Serving Tray in Kitchen

Odds are, the first few ideas on your list are the same as mine.  You also probably had a tough time getting past the first four or five, right?  That’s actually totally normal.  The first ideas are the ones that everyone has.  The next ones are the ones that are the money-makers, the ideas others didn’t think of.  But getting that next batch of ideas is hard work. It takes time and effort.

So, how do you get past the first few ‘meh’ ideas and get to the good ones?

Before we look at that, let’s look at what we do to get the first 4 or 5.

In our Mind’s Eye, we hold the brick in our hand, looking at it from 2 to 3 feet away, simultaneously thinking how this is good building material. In other words what we do is, (a) focus on one main trait/attribute and let that guide our ideation process.  In the case of a brick we focus on the weight and/or hardness. We also put the brick where we typically see it.  We (b) see it in a specific context: in this case, the construction realm. Thirdly, we (c) look at the wholeness of the object – in this case the brick as a rectangular block of material.

The way to get better ideas is to vary each one of the above three perspectives: A.C.E. –  (Attributes, Context, Everything (not the Whole thing))

Doing this will break through the ‘meh’ stage and give you much more creative ideas.

(a) Look at various Attributes

So, what are the attributes of a brick, or any object for that matter (I realize there is some overlap between these but sometimes it helps to call the attributes different things)?

  • Shape
  • Size/Dimensions
  • Roughness/Smoothness
  • Hardness/Softness
  • Color/Reflectivity/Optical Properties
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Density
  • Sharpness
  • Mechanical Properties (will it behave differently when we push on it, pull on it or shear it)
  • Fracture Properties (How it breaks)
  • Thermal properties
  • Fire Resistance
  • Electrical Properties
  • Magnetic Properties
  • Acoustic Properties
  • Porosity
  • Chemical Properties
  • Emotions it elicits
  • All of the above at various scales – from macro to micro.  Bricks aren’t perfectly homogeneous. Different parts of a brick can behave differently.

Look at the various attributes and ideate around those – individually or in aggregate.  Truly observe!  Understand what goes into the product.  Once you understand the brick your eyes will be opened to ways you can modify and leverage what the brick is.

What’s the shape of the brick?  Is the brick REALLY hard, or does it has softness to it?  What does it take to deform the brick and mar the surface?  Bricks can hold and/or prevent temperature transfer depending on the context.  They also don’t conduct electricity all that well.  Do they change color under certain circumstances?  Do they change their smell under certain stresses?  Do bricks fracture at certain loads so that they can be used as indicators?  What do they taste like? (You lick a brick at your own risk. 😉 )

(b) Look at alternate Contexts

Put the brick into various contexts and you’ll be surprised how quickly the ideas start flowing.  Is it a yard, a different planet, an imaginary place, a street, a kitchen, an operating room?  Are these contexts cold, hot, well lit, dimly lit, windy, calm, etc.?  All these variables will impact the types of ideas you come up with.

For example, I put it the brick in a kitchen and hence came up with using it as a serving tray and/or thermal stabilizer. (Also, bricks can exhibit efflorescence.  Salts can come to the surface, so this can flavor food – provided the rest of the materials in the brick aren’t poisonous 😉 ) When I thought of it in a street, I thought of rubbing it on the street to make drawings.   In an operating room I thought of it being heated up and placed under the surgical drapes to keep patients warm. (I came up with another idea but I’ll include it below.)

(c) Look at Everything (not the whole thing)

Finally, what can we change – modify, add, subtract, etc. from any of the above attributes, components, systems or sub-systems to make it useful?  (Place these in various contexts to multiply the power of this exercise.)  Look beyond it simply being a block held at arms length.  Re-imagine it!

Can we change its usefulness by breaking it up? (I often take brick chunks, break them more and use the fragments to line the bottom of planters.  Broken shards of brick can also be amazingly sharp!)

We could also grind it up and add it to food to change the way it’s cooked and digested. (Depending on the chemical composition of the brick this might not be a safe idea so don’t try this at home/work/etc.!) Revisiting the operating room context,  we could grind up the brick and weave it into the material of the surgical drapes to make the drapes more effective insulators.

The whole purpose of using A.C.E. is to get us past the obvious and into the realm of innovation.   Just using one of these will help, but when you use all three in conjunction, your ideas will flow and be more original.

Try it!  Would love to know your thoughts!



Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Don’t Worry About the Elephant in the Room, Look for the Chameleons

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2016



Photo Courtesy of momtastic.com


You’ve got multiple experts in a room.  They’re all giving their opinions on the state of a market, or a new product.  Very often this leads to the manifestation of proverbial Elephant in the Room – the obvious issue no one wants to mention because it’s embarrassing, or taboo, as it has implications that could impact the project in a negative way.

While no one wants to talk about the elephant, the good news is that it’s there.  Yes, no one is talking about it (yet), but if  the culture is such that accountability is valued more than meeting deadlines, the elephant will be revealed and it will get talked about.  (If there are negative ramifications for saying something important just because it will negatively impact a product launch, you’ve got bigger problems than the elephant*.)

But very often, there are insights in your Voice of Customer (VOC) feedback that aren’t obvious, that won’t get talked about or dealt with – they’re Chameleons.

Chameleons are more dangerous to your project than elephants (I’m speaking with regards to VOC type data, or any situation where people are interpreting what others believe or are doing. I realize chameleons are cute benign reptiles 🙂 )  .  This is because people don’t know what they don’t know.  But, just because something isn’t known, doesn’t mean it can’t be known, or that there aren’t tell-tale signs present.

Since you can’t see the Chameleon directly, you have to look indirectly for the shadows –  Shifting shadows, a glimpse of movement.  It’s things that are implied, not things that are obvious.  It’s the nebulous things, the directions that are inferred from what is being said and done, not the words themselves.

This is important, because the words themselves are going to be the same words that members of the VOC panel will use when describing the situation to your competition.   If you want to have a product or service that is different and superior to what everyone else does, look for the Chameleon.

What are some tricks for seeing the Chameleon?

When dealing with VOC, a textual analysis is a great place to start.  It can reveal underlying dispositions and assumptions.  It can also show what types of metaphors, and thus what contexts people are using when they talk about your product.  I was once part of VOC feedback and noticed that certain subgroups of clinicians consistently referred to certain medical devices using military-like terms: cocked, captured, loaded, etc.  No one really noticed it because those terms are ubiquitous.   I did some textual analysis and noticed that there was another subgroup that rarely used those terms.  This was a Chameleon!

So I raised the question, do we want people using a war/battle metaphor for this surgical device, or do we want the market to use, and experience, a different, more healing metaphor?

The other tip is to pay close attention to what people do, not only what they say.  Body language, rituals, procedures, actions of any type, can give tremendous insight and reveal the Chameleons that everyone else will miss.

I once researched  a medical procedure and realized the doctor used a particular motion again and again.  The doctor never mentioned he made the movement, but he did it every procedure.  The kicker is that no products on the market leveraged that particular movement.  So I rolled that motion into the product design, creating a more ergonomic, simple, and cost effective to make, product.

Remember, do textual analysis and analyze what people do.  By being cognizant of these two tips, you’ll be well on your way to recognizing the Chameleons when they become present.  It’s well worth looking for them.  Sometimes they hide right next to the elephants. 😉



*- Actually this is a Cultural, or Corporate Chameleon.


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