Uncover A Hidden Source Of Creativity For Your Business
As marketing professionals, great ideas are probably our most important asset. Great marketers need to generate and communicate visionary ideas long before a new product or service is finalized and ready for consumption. But where do these great ideas come from?
Some creative geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci or Thomas Edison were born with a special talent, enabling them to generate unlimited amounts of innovative ideas. It's not so easy for the rest of us. I believe we all have the inherent ability to generate great ideas, but life forces us to eliminate or disregard most of them for practical reasons. It's part of our natural tendency to create convenient and familiar patterns that place us into that "box" we're always trying to think outside of. We need some kind of trigger that forces us beyond our usual patterns.
Many creative thinking educators such as Edward de Bono, Roger von Oech, Michael Michalko, Tony Buzan and others have written books filled with tools that can help spark the process. I find their concepts extremely useful, especially when you want to break the potential "group think" that typically occurs during brainstorm sessions. Sometimes a simple trick referred to as random stimulation -- thinking about a random word and then relating those thoughts back to the problem, product or service you want to develop -- can generate what de Bono calls lateral thinking.
Taking advantage of such creative thinking tools and brainpower is one avenue a company can take. The other is to look at your customer base, which can be a tremendous source of direct and indirect creative ideas. Direct ideas are suggestions from your customers that may include new products and services, pricing models, marketing and positioning ideas and more. In my experience, some of the best ideas come from actual or potential users. Customers also drive indirect ideas by providing input that can serve as a special kind of random stimulation -- helping you escape your usual thinking patterns. For example, next time you need to develop a creative idea, try listening to 10 phone interactions with customers or read 10 emails or blog postings. You might be surprised at the creative ideas that trigger in your mind.
In my last article, we explored how the voice of the customer is critical to supporting full-spectrum decisions based on structured and unstructured data. Perhaps even more important is leveraging the voice of the customer to generate new and creative ideas. The takeaway: listen to your customers. In today's day and age, global companies are fortunate to have customers who interact with them through a variety of channels. Monitoring these voices can be challenging, but technology is now able to collect, mine and generate insights from thousands and even millions of customer voices.
For example, if your organization has access to a speech or text analytics solution, searching for the following phrases may help find some potential gold nuggets in your customer voice archives: great idea, I wish you..., wonderful suggestion. And, what is even more exciting is that it doesn't matter where these interactions occur -- voice calls, email, social media, chat sessions or even old-fashioned letters. You have the largest focus group imaginable at your fingertips. Use the resource to create new ideas, keeping the customer experience at the forefront. Joey Reiman is right; this is the new currency. If we want to maintain a competitive advantage, it is not enough to make good business decisions. It is critical to also continue to innovate with new ideas.