It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


Two local innovation events by Nheeda Enriquez

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like, and one of the reasons is that I’ve been working on putting together a great conference I’m about to plug:  Innovate Carolina, which will take place on Saturday, April 10 at the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.  The one day event is jam-packed with some great speakers, including Marshall Brain, the creator of How Stuff Works and the host of the NatGeo show “Factory Floor.”  It’s put together by the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA.)  Non-members can attend for only $99 through the early bird deadline.  The lineup is undergoing a few finishing touches and includes a some local Charlotteans, so check back to see more details on the program.

If you’ve got a few more dollars to invest in a quick workshop on innovation, consider “Building your Innovation Capacity” taught by the McColl School of Business at Queens University on March 17-18.  I don’t know much about it outside the website, but it looks to hit on a broad range of steps in the innovation process.



Local reporter traces that text donation to Haiti by Nheeda Enriquez

At this point, everyone’s heard about the new text-message way to support disaster relief in Haiti.  By making donations so quick and easy (literally 8 taps on my phone “Haiti” and “Yes”  It’s 10, if you count hitting “send”) wireless providers have raised record amounts for the Red Cross at unprecedented speed.

Local grocer Harris Teeter has also been using its lower-tech way to raise money at the register for the cause.

What these both have in common is that donations occur at the point of thought, removing the consumer’s barriers of inconvenience.  No need to sit down to write (and mail) a check or enter in a bunch of credit card information.

And today, local WFAE reporter Julie Rose told us how those donations actually make it to relief teams on the ground, disputing the myth that the money is taking 90 days to be useful.



Charlotte Restaurant Week, revisited by Nheeda Enriquez

logo via Queen's Feast

For some reason, my mindmap over the summer about Charlotte Restaurant Week got lots of hits, so I thought I’d revisit the topic.

The winter version of the event is here once again, and like many Charlotteans, I will put my New Year resolutions on hold to participate.  Why is it so successful?  It’s great for restaurants because it fills empty tables during a slow period.   The scarcity of a $30 deal at a fancy restaurant will sucker any diner into trying something new.

Personally, I like it because it’s another reason to bring people together.  But it also cuts down the number of decisions I have to make when ordering off of a menu.  This reminds me of a little publicity blitz by Menu Engineer (that’s right, an engineer) Gregg Rapp went on last fall.  His interviews with Time and the Today Show reveal all the tricks he teaches restaurants as they redesign their menus to get you to spend more on your meal, including using center justification and taking out dollar $igns.  He also uses fanciful descriptions that make their popular dishes hard to resist.

You don’t often get to read a person’s mind as he/she processes a menu to see if these tactics work.  This Charlotte Loafing blogger shares her mental gymnastics on one of Restaurant Week’s participants, Liberty Gastropub, and it looks like the tasty descriptions work on her.



2 minute mindmap: New Year’s Resolutions by Nheeda Enriquez

Closing out week 2 of the whole resolution thing, I thought I’d throw in a quick 2 minute mindmap.  One of my resolutions is about working more with my hands, as I wrote about for Charlotte Viewpoint, but this mindmap is a simple brain dump on another related resolution: to eat better. Creating this helped me realize that I should put my vitamins in a place that’s easy for me to remember to take them.

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Grocery store delighter: McCormick’s Pre-measured Spices by Nheeda Enriquez

I was at Harris Teeter the other day and caught this little delighter – pre-measured spice packs combined with recipes.  I wished this was around when I was in college, I would have saved myself tons of bland meals because I was too cheap to buy all the spices I needed.  Aside from actually solving for a problem that exists, what I love about it is that it probably didn’t cost a fortune to develop.  It simply re-proportions existing products.  It reminds me of a marketing trend of packaging smaller portions of goods to bring down the price so that consumers in developing countries can afford them.

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I realize that this is technically not a “delighter” per se, but the solution itself sure delighted me anyway!



NY Times Year in Ideas: Ideas to fuel other ideas by Nheeda Enriquez

photo via NY Times

I’m a few weeks slow on the draw this time around, but one of my favorite end-of-the-year things to do is pour through the The New York Times Magazine’s Year in Ideas issue.  In the past, I’ve used it for a brainstorming exercise (sort of like a word-association activity, but as stimulus to inspire new applications for their product using one of the featured ideas.)

One of these is called Subscription Artists, is another take on crowdsourcing, where a recording artist finances her work by soliciting pledges from fans.  The article mentions Kickstarter as the tool to collect the funds, but The Point also does the same thing (I think Kickstarter is focused on artists.)  The beauty of these sites is that participants actually commit money to ideas that they like, where as some other crowdsourcing mechanisms often turn out to be popularity contests.

How might a company use a Kickstarter-like tool to figure out what features their customers value?



Copenhagen winds of change blow through Charlotte by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo cred: andjohan

I was lucky to catch up with Tracy Russ, a Charlotte-based marketing consultant, just before he took off for the global climate change negotiations this week in Copenhagen.  He talked about his most current project, The Copenhagen Story, which is a storytelling initiative in collaboration with former Sierra Club president, Lisa Renstrom.

Russ sees a big hole in the issue:  positive inspiration for change.  His innovative solution: get away from “scare tactics and gloom-and-doom scenarios” and give people a platform to see and hear about the future that carbon reduction efforts will ultimately provide.  And not merely from an environmental standpoint, but he hopes to collect stories about the economic and societal benefits as well.

After the conference, I believe the team is rebranding the project under the name “Convergence.”  Follow his progress here.