A Self-Audit to Spur the Process

▪ What have been the most important brand milestones in your industry in the last 2 to 3 decades? Why exactly were they significant? What assumptions did they challenge?

▪ What convergences enabled the above breakthroughs to occur? Market conditions? Technology? Altered product sourcing or distribution channels? Development of new marketing niches or targets? Exasperation with stagnated lifestyle or design concepts?

▪ Compel yourself to take a broad look at innovations emerging throughout the world, even those far-flung from your own arena of activity. Imagine you are an apparel manufacturer. Glance at what is happening in Internet technology, new foods and dietary preferences, changes in humor or political correctness, just-in-time manufacturing of automobiles, packaging of children’s toys. You name it. Is there some utterly fresh, uncharted, and iconoclastic way to “connect the dots” from this innovation to the creative challenge occupying you right now in your industry? Often this process will yield astonishing results.

▪ Consider the classic story of George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer. While on hunting trips in the Alps, he was fascinated as to why burrs kept sticking to his clothes. Putting a burr under the microscope he discovered each contained scores of miniature hooks. What if he could duplicate the structure through weaving materials at a minute level? Ultimately he did . . . and the outcome was Velcro! What seemingly unexplainable phenomenon do you spot in the everyday world that fascinates you? It may be intriguing you for a reason you don’t yet consciously realize.

▪ Is an explosive shift occurring in the way a fundamental concept is being understood or applied? For example, the recent economic collapse didn’t cause aspirational consumption to disappear, but it surely redefined the behavioral goals from conspicuous consumption and status-seeking to the pursuit of pragmatism, durability, eco-responsibility, and wellness.

▪ Leverage the power of meta-leveling. I call it meta-levitating, and here’s how it works. If you are stuck in a situation where you are trying to pursue two contradictory goals – like lower price and superior quality – “kick your thinking upstairs” one level and assume the two opposites aren’t mutually exclusive but simultaneously attainable. What specifics would allow a reconciliation?