on May 11, 2016 Our Design Thinking Tool Design Thinking Creative Problem Solving Interviews with Innovators Creative Process

The 4-Step Creative Process this Innovation Strategist Uses in Batterii


Every week, I have the privilege of working with clients on all manner of teams in every type of industry, so I get a really good view into how they manage their creative processes. Some have extremely evolved, proprietary frameworks while others are just beginning to coalesce on preferred ways of working collaboratively. 

When I work with these teams, I’m often asked to provide “best practices” on how to use Batterii to enable a typical design or innovation project. I'm here to help them decide what activities should be run, in what order, to get to a viable end result. 

While I always stress that there’s no “right way” to do human-centered design, and that Batterii is flexible enough in its workflow and naming conventions to support just about any process, here's how I approach my projects using Batterii. 

Step 1: Problem Framing

The first question I usually spend a good deal of time on is, “What problem are we really trying to solve?” In my experience working on innovation projects in large companies, the biggest cultural issue we often face is the collective urge to jump right into idea generation without first spending some time to, as they say, “fall in love with the problem.”

One of the best ways I’ve found to visually take a team through an exercise that makes sure we’re asking the right question is to use “abstraction laddering.”  If you haven’t heard of using this “ladders of abstraction” method, it is a great way of moving between concrete and abstract concepts, and can be applied to innovation projects to find the “sweet spot” for engaging in social problem solving. Sometimes, without knowing it, we state the problem at an overly granular level, while other times we might set an objective that is far too aspirational.

Using an abstraction ladder can help you and your team to make sure you start your project off on the right foot by focusing on the correct problem.

I use Batterii to visualize my ladders as one of my first steps in framing my problem, by starting with a simple statement - for example, “make it easier to get started with Batterii” - and then moving down the ladder by asking “how” (concrete) and up the ladder asking “why” (abstract) to develop alternative statements.

In the example below, you can see some of the statements we generated by applying the ladder methodology, including:

Why

  • “Decrease churn rate”
  • “Expand existing customers”
  • “Increase NPS”
  • “Grow Market Share”
  • “Become the core tool to power creative teams”

How:

  • “Provide free, real-time support”
  • “Offer agile, in-app on boarding and coaching tools”
  • “Host on-demand training to onboard teams”
  • “Deliver continual upgrades that delight users”
  • “Put CX at the core of all we do”
We start by having team members enter as many potential statements as they wish using Batterii’s digital stickies, positioning them on the ladder rungs. 

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As the Room owner, I will sometimes run a quick “power dotting” evaluation to let the team decide which statement best codifies our objective. This is a simple, collaborative diverve/converge method to let everyone on the team have a say in selecting the right statement for us to work on, and can be done whether we're all in the same room or spread across the globe.

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In the end, the team decided that while “making it easy to get started with Batterii” was a valid goal, we wanted to go down the ladder and get more technical. After some discussion and debate, our realization was that getting started was just part of the overall picture and that we needed to embed killer customer experience throughout all stages of any customer journey. Thus, we exit this stage of our process with a new, more focused Statement: “Put CX at the core of all we do.”

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Step 2: Exploring the Opportunity Space

With the team’s collective focus now centered on customer experience, we enter the stage of our process where we dive in and “fall in love with the problem,” so to speak. Through exploration - on the web or in the field - we search for the key stimulus and research that will paint a comprehensive picture of the opportunity space. 

Pulling from a range of human-centered design methods available, we might choose to do web research and netnography, look for examples that might inspire us, explore analogs, do store visits and even interviews in the field.

We usually start by populating walls with some of the content we have collected over the years that would be relevant to share and review. These might be images from previous store visits, consumer videos provided by agencies, PDFs and presentations, as well as trends, insights, and ideas. Batterii makes it really easy to bulk upload these assets via drag-and-drop so that the team can explore them visually, like, comment, and share.

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Another key activity on almost every project is doing some form of web research.

Whether researching the market, browsing through social media, or doing coolhunting and trendspotting at our desks, we know we can take advantage of the scale of the web to get to a shared understanding of our opportunity space much quicker.  

In this case, our team uses the Batterii Web Clipper to do web research to look for "the best of the best" and "the worst of the worst" customer experiences that are industry agnostic, so we can begin the process of distilling key insights about what really goes into putting CX at the core of all we do.

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If our schedule and budget allow, we might also use the Batterii Mobile App to go gather new, primary research in market, whether assinging missions, doing immersions and undercover store visits, documenting conferences like CES or SXSW, or any other way to get information "from the edge." As the team populates our room and walls with links, images, videos, and documents, we make time to browse, read, comment, like, and share to build a collective understanding of where we need to go.

Step 3: Making Sense of What We've Found

In my experience, the "synthesis" stage is by far the most difficult step in our creative process. Gathering information is fairly simple (though time consuming), and everyone knows how to generate ideas.

Connecting dots to uncover themes, trends, and insights, however, is as much an art as it is a science.  

Using Batterii, our team uses moveable walls and backdrops to recreate the "war room" activities we might do in a physical space - using whiteboards, canvases, and post-it notes - in a digital environment.  My go-to technique is sometimes called affinity clustering, which I use as a way to group assets together and add descriptors that highlight the connection among them.

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As we start connecting dots and patterns and themes begin to emerge, there comes a point where we want to formally document what we're finding in a format longer than a sticky note without having to resort to formats like Powerpoint and Word. That's where Batterii's content cards come into play.

In this project, bringing the team through this sensemaking activity uncovered the beginnings of insights, which we created as content cards on a new wall called Insights. In addition to giving our insight cards a title and description, we always use the "Import Asset" feature to embed key photos, videos, articles, and even other cards so that we can both strengthen the story around each insight, but also create the links that trace the history and journey our team took to produce the output.

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For some projects, we'll run team evaluations on the insights, turn them into Opportunity Statements, or iterate back to validate the insights by doing a second round of more focused research. When we agree on shared views of the opportunities, we begin to form statement starters like "How might we...?" that will guide our brainstorming sessions in the next stage.

Step 4: Brainstorming and Concept Development

The easiest part of the process - or, perhaps, the activity the team seems to enjoy most - is ideation. We use Batterii to create idea cards, use the import asset feature to link insights and other assets to support each idea, build upon each others' ideas via commenting and liking, and run multi-criteria evaluations to help select the best ones to move forward. We often use backdrops like the Importance Difficulty Matrix to add a visual layer to our evaluations, and have worked with clients to upload custom backdrops they use to drive their processes.

Ideas.gif

By separating out quick wins from longer term, more strategic ideas, we can prioritize concepts, begin to build execution plans, and update our product roadmap. 

Wrapping Up

As stated at the beginning of this post, there's no "one way" to run your innovation projects, but by stitching together the various activities and methods available at each stage and using a digital platform like Batterii, you can implement a consistent approach that produces results again and again.  
  • Digitize YOUR process - activities, walls, backdrops, content cards
  • Involve your entire team for some or all of the process
  • Create a repository for the knowledge created to reuse it on future projects

Use Batterii To Improve Your Creative Process

Batterii can help you define your problem, explore opportunity, capture content, and make sense of what you've discovered. Download the Digital Ethnography Guide for 20 tips and tricks for brands looking to listen, explore and monitor consumers across social media - and, get a chance to see how they do it with Batterii. Get the guide to get started.

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Chad Reynolds

Chad Reynolds is the Founder of Batterii, a collaboration platform designed to help teams create better experiences. Over the past 15 years, Chad has worked with brands like Adidas, GE Healthcare, Nike and Procter & Gamble to re-imagine their brand experiences for the next generation of consumers.