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Identifying Innovation Opportunities | Reinventing Reinvention Guide

How do you come up with innovative ideas? Discover how insights folks identify opportunities today and learn tips from our senior leaders.

Traditionally, companies might have suffered from a bit of a “bubble mentality” when identifying opportunities. Julien Naggar, VP at Dig, explains that in many organizations, new ideas usually came from the internal team or key stakeholders who had pre-established hypotheses about what consumers might like.

Market research was definitely considered as necessary but often used as more of a validation tool to confirm the ideas brainstormed internally.

Julien Naggar, VP

Dig Insights

Furthermore, clients were sometimes reticent to invest in research methods for innovation. As a result, innovation continues to get stuck in a bubble.

Classic qualitative research methods like ethnography or observation have always been widely used, but they took a long time and a lot of money, which isn’t something that some brands are ready to risk in today’s fast-paced world.

Julien Naggar, VP

Dig Insights

So how have things changed?

Agile working has paved the way for more efficient and iterative research as well as a more open-minded approach. Researchers conduct internal workshops with every department that has a direct or indirect connection with consumers. There’s no hierarchy here - an executive’s feedback is as valuable as a salesperson’s, so all ideas are equally useful.

The ideation process itself has experienced some changes. VP, Caroline Freakes, adds that in the past, the journey from ideation to testing ideas could take weeks, with even brainstorming sessions taking hours on end. Today, many teams leverage more efficient approaches, such as Sprints, that allow for rapid ideation and idea testing in a matter of days.

In the past, teams might have wanted ideas to be fully fleshed out before getting them in front of consumers, but today there is value noted in getting ideas, even preliminary, in front of consumers early on so that they can be adapted more quickly.

Caroline Freakes, VP of Client Services

Dig Insights

Throughout the process, insights pros rely on foundational research to link potential ideas to consumers’ pain points. By pressure-testing consumer pain points against ideas, Julien explains how researchers can use data and insights to prioritize innovation ideas. But the process doesn’t stop on one round, it is iterative, consistently rehashing ideas against consumer problems until winning ideas rise to the top.

This is the essence of the iterative method - it’s small in scale, repeated, and as a result, it is fast and cheap.

Dig’s tips for identifying opportunities more efficiently

1. Make the ideation experience playful

Creating collaborative relationships with clients is crucial at this stage of the innovation process. On the one hand, it means that you, as a researcher, must spend some time understanding where your client comes from and what their business needs are.

On the other hand, it’s also about listening to clients’ opinions and working together to solve a problem. That’s where, according to Caroline, an element of play comes in handy.

When we do ideation sessions at Dig, I like to gamify the experience. Leveraging play is really important in the creative process as it facilitates divergent thinking, it provides permission to think more laterally, and it’s fun. The first round of brainstorming typically yields the obvious ideas, then through creative techniques, you get to blue sky and then ‘clever’. Involving cross-functional teams (brand, comms, co-mans) is also important as it brings together different perspectives to foster better ideas.

Caroline Freakes, VP of Client Services

Dig Insights

2. Leverage Artificial Intelligence where possible (and relevant)

Innovation workshops are the perfect place for AI-generated ideas. You can use AI to help you brainstorm, but only after you’ve interviewed relevant stakeholders and consumers to see what’s important. Inputs matter. What direction do you want to go? What business plan/strategy does this align to? Are your consumers begging for you to be more socially conscious? Really anything that helps inform your innovation. Find your parameters and brainstorm a bit yourself. The more ideas you have and the more direction you can give the AI, the more likely it is to generate something completely new.

When brainstorming with a client, AI-generated ideas have sometimes outperformed the ideas clients brought to the table in testing, which goes to show that AI can genuinely be additive in your innovation process.

3. Don’t forget about qualitative research

Everyone talks about being customer-centric, but not everyone knows exactly what it looks like. When it comes to qual, we believe it’s about being open-minded and forcing yourself to listen to consumers. Co-creation is a perfect example of that.

Our work with McCain is a great illustration of this concept of nearer-term innovation. When the company wanted to launch a product in the UK and in the US, the data demonstrated that the same concept would perform worse in the US. So McCain tapped into Dig’s qual team to understand why.

McCain logo and potato fries

Our qual team conducted a co-creation workshop, but with a twist - we invited pairs of friends to tell us how they felt about McCain’s new product. This unique approach helped us put participants at ease, elicited honest and engaging responses, and uncovered hidden customer needs when consuming McCain’s products. (They also made the moderator’s job easier by allowing respondents to push each other to a better and more honest idea).

After collecting everyone’s feedback and optimizing the packaging for the US market, we tested the new product concept on our innovation insights platform, Upsiide. The consumer-created re- design results surpassed performance expectations and proved how the product could be successful in the US.

Here’s Julien on our learnings:

With co-creation sessions, we didn’t ask the consumers to tell us everything. We allowed them to be part of the creative process and tell us where we are, what’s changed, and what exactly we need to tweak to make a better product. This not only allowed us to update our internal knowledge but also empowered us to make better decisions.

Julien Naggar, VP

Dig Insights

If you want to be connected to consumers and have the available resources, qual can be so beneficial. This can allow you to identify opportunities quickly, prioritize the most relevant ideas and see how consumers react after launch.

Want to learn about other stages of Dig's innovation process? Read our full Reinventing Reinvention Guide now.