Tag Archives: innovation

The Freedom of Constraint


Photo by Eni Turkeshi

Photo by Eni Turkeshi

I’m baaaackkkkk, and going through my google reader have come across several interesting and provocative posts – some of which I want to talk about next time.

But I just came across an excellent post by Ellen at Foresight 20/20 that I’d like to share.  It’s all about how understanding constraints helps deliver a sharper outcome – which should be the ultimate business aim.  

I remember really early on in my career where an advertising creative said to one of our mutual clients “Just give me the freedom of a tight brief”.  Wow, I thought.  How profound.  But hadn’t really thought how it impacted me.  So many times I have thought of this sentence though in the past few years as the role of research evolves to be more insight focused, than information focused…

– So when a client calls and asks for a quick turn around job with a “verbal” brief I freak out a little…and because they are in a rush they may forget to pass on a few things they really need to know 

– at the start of an ideation workshop where a facilitator says “today we have nothing that should hold us back and we are just going to come up with ideas” I have an intense fear the next 8 hours will waste a lot of everyone’s time. Sure it’ll be fun!…but not when all the ideas are created around a production process the company has no capex to develop.

…etc etc

It’d be like if I walked in to moderate a focus group without a discussion guide, or if I asked someone to go to the shops for me and buy some “stuff” without giving them a list.

When clients can’t give us a brief, we always write one for them, to make sure this is what they want. It is often a straight forward process (esp. if for a concept test, a volumetric study, brand positioning piece). But often this is harder to get to when starting off an innovation process.  Production process limitations, profit expectations, supply chain constraints; not many of these have been thought through. 

Ellen pretty much sums it up when she says;

“Design is about problem solving.  Problem solving needs constraints.  Otherwise it’s just decoration, and that’s a different task altogether.”



Filed under marketing

cupcakes take the cake…

I received an email today from Brooklyn Museum about the final results from their “crowd curated” show Click! The exhibition was based on The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and the idea that no single individual or an expert would be smarter than the crowd – the best pics submitted would emerge.  People were asked to submit a photo they thought expressed “the Changing Faces of Brooklyn”.  These were uploaded and people went on line and evaluated what they thought of the picture from “most effective” to “least effective” based on meeting the theme. Evaluators were also asked to rate themselves on their “art knowledge” – from zero to “expert”.  they could also leave comments on the pics. I evaluated some of them.  The process was mesmerising – image after image – some OK, others compelling. It was addictive. And now the results are out. They got 389 submissions and are displaying the top 20%.  CapitalD directed me to the “In the Gallery” link that shows over three pages these top 20% – and as he pointed out they are like a visual tag cloud.   The size of the image is relative to its “pull”.  This is how they’ll be shown. What I also find very interesting is the differences and similarities across each self-appointed group (from expert to zero knowledge).  This makes me want to be in/live in Brooklyn a little bit more…but I’ll save that for another day.

This got me thinking about my own pics. In August 2005 I took a picture at Betty’s tea room in York.   I loaded it into flickr and it is my most viewed pic.  It has been viewed over 3500 times. Each week it gets an average of 20 views. People seem to just love cup cakes. People love cupcakes even more if they are made into the shape of pigs and bees and lions.  I think it’s a very happy picture to share with folks on Friday.  I also think it’s so funny that one picture (out of the 1500 I have uploaded) can attract so many people.

This stuff is getting more and more relevant to the work I’m doing (the whole stock market approach to concept evaluation, NPD, innovation) and this show has given me a few ideas about how we can use it…I think.  Watch this space.

cupcakes at betty's


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