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


3 great places to host an ideation session in Charlotte by Nheeda Enriquez

Innovation experts stress the value of conducting ideation sessions offsite, where participants focus on the task at hand and are removed from their day-to-day distractions.  Brainstorming in a unfamiliar, yet relaxed environment really gets those alpha brain waves moving.

The economy undoubtedly presents a cost challenge, and it may seem like a luxury to whisk away your most productive employees for a day.  However, I’ve seen dramatic differences in idea quality when teams downgrade to ideating in an internal conference room.  In light of that, I suggest a few affordable creative spaces in Charlotte, all of which cost far less than a boring hotel ballroom and worth the investment for results.

photo via Magellan/IMR

The Best Buy:  Magellan Idea Center
Located just outside Uptown in the Atherton Lofts, this space was designed with ideation in mind.  (They also use it for focus groups and other types of market research.)  It’s a huge space packed with creative stimuli (magazines, toys, and local art) and has smaller spaces ideal for breakout exercises.  Lots of amenities are included, like coffee, snacks and tech equipment.

The Local: Imaginon
One of the benefits of having a session in a children’s museum is that it encourages your participants to think like kids again.  Frank Blair of PLCMC suggests choosing one of the round rooms, adjacent to the courtyard, to have a session outdoors.  Note that meetings technically have to be open to the public, so it may not be ideal for super-secret topics, but would be a nice place for brainstorming with potential customers.
Runner up “public” space: The Green at Wachovia

The Extra Sensory Experience: Amelie’s French Bakery
Though I haven’t had a workshop here myself, I imagine it would be a lovely place to host one, especially with the tasty treats so close by.  And it would be a neat option for teams who are most creative during non-business hours, since they’re open 24/7.
Runners-up: The galleries at the Light Factory or the studios at Area 15 in NoDa (site of local meetups and barcamps.)

I’d love to hear about spaces that other folks in the area have tried.  Post them in the comments!

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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?



“Yes, and…” is the golden rule for ideation (and improv!) by Nheeda Enriquez

yesandI’ve been fortunate to take a handful of improv workshops during my life for different reasons, but it wasn’t until one from grad school (led by a Second City member, no less) that I realized its influence in innovation.

When brainstorming, I encourage using the phrase, “Yes, and…”  to make sure everyone reserves judgment of others’ ideas.  Generally, we find ourselves practicing the opposite, readily dismissing the kernels of a new idea without airing it out to see if someone can improve upon it.

Improv teaches us how to “live in the moment,” which can actually be a frightening place, but this is where the purest level of creativity (and comedy) live in your subconscious.  Many workshops are geared to get people out of their shells, but they can also get them out of the box.

Here is a wonderful write-up with 10 principles of improv where you can easily see how they might be applied to a business setting.

And here is a free workshop put on by Funny Bone in Charlotte next week.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to check it out because of another event, so I’m hoping for another one at a future date.



Bernie Madoff: Using extreme constraints to find ideas by Nheeda Enriquez
original photo source: sf gate

original photo source: sf gate

The recent Madoff sentencing has left many scratching their heads, questioning “How is it possible to for a 71 year old man serve a 150 year sentence?!”  Some agree that it’s merely gesture to illustrate the severity of the crime, but it also presents the opportunity to ask >> What if…?

I advocate the use of extreme constraints as a tool for ideation, because they force new ways to think about a problem and get us beyond the obvious or incremental solution.  Clearly, Mr. Madoff’s punishment will outlive him, but if we allow ourselves to get crazy for a second, how might we find an alternative means to serve a full sentence?

  • Keep his clones in jail
  • Break up the sentence into lots of little segments and find a way to distribute the punishment to co-conspirators
  • Make him conduct random acts of kindness to pay it forward, a la Akoha cards
  • Make him spend a majority of his time doing work that will certainly pay benefits over time, like plant 1000 trees by hand
  • Force him to start an investment fund for one of his least favorite charity, a la stickK, and let others contribute to it

These become the kernels of a larger solution that others can build upon.  What other ideas are out there?