Be more ambitious with your ideas

I’m lucky enough to be able to work with some of the biggest global brands on their innovation challenges. Facing competitors becoming leaner and faster these brands need bigger, more disruptive ideas delivered at speed.

Below are three observations on how some brand teams are pushing us to fulfil their greater ambition.

1. They start with uncompromisingly stretching and precise project objectives

Working with different brands we see the aims for similar projects expressed in different ways. No project or situation is identical but it is striking how the ambition and precision in objectives can vary.

An example of where stretching objectives have pushed our thinking and productivity is a recent claims project. Our client’s ambition went beyond a menu of motivating product claim ideas. Success instead was defined as communicating brand superiority consistently across key consumer touch-points with impact.


Claims remained a core part of this project but delivering superiority demanded visualisation, information, demonstration and implicit pack communication to all contribute and join up. Bigger ambition, bigger project, better results.

A need to dramatically cut time to market is also raising the ambition for product and service ideation.  Clients are scheduling partner discussions, prototyping and research immediately after ideation workshops. This means more detailed idea definitions, plans on how to deliver and even business model recommendations may be required workshop outputs.

2. They mandate an entrepreneurial team mind-set with new perspectives

Faced with smaller, faster and lower cost competition clients are increasingly recognising that they must think differently and leave behind assumptions on constraints or ways of working to create the new ideas they need.

Techniques and case-studies can support this, but they are no substitutes for connecting with those with different expertise, ways of working and perspectives. This is happening with the adoption of open innovation approaches connecting big brands with start-up owners. Collaboration has become central to finding ideas and delivering scale fast.

Unilever Foundry has progressed 100+ projects connecting start-ups with their global brands

It is therefore not surprising that involving entrepreneurs to co-create and challenge is increasing a specific ideation requirement.  The logic is compelling – entrepreneurs with the right expertise bring a different commercial perspective and a healthy disregard for assumed barriers. As importantly they can challenge, debate and critique ideas more effectively than colleagues.

In a recent project we connected founders of successful start-ups including restaurant chains, social apps, street-food brands, on-demand delivery and subscription services.

3. They don’t wait for an ideation workshop to create great ideas.

Ideation workshops remain a common requirement, but increasingly they are the conclusion of a cumulative global idea generation process. Clients increasingly are not gambling on a workshop to deliver all the big ideas they need. They are also recognising that iteration and connection of thinking will lead to bigger and more robust ideas.

Approaches range from establishing competitive teams focused on specific opportunities, to crowd sourcing ideas, to equipping a programme of ‘feeder’ regional workshops. The aim, however, is often the same – ensuring a concluding global ideation event builds from the best inspiration and ideas accessible internally and externally.

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