Lately BOLTGROUP has had that feeling of being hacked. And we love it.
Over the years we’ve developed expertise in many areas. Our design process is geared for innovation. It incorporates years of experience in insight gathering, ideation, rapid concept modeling and testing, as well as industrial design and engineering. Typically clients ask us to help identify their next new products and to assist in the products’ development.
But recently that has evolved. Some of our clients have gone from “give us ideas” to “we want to see and understand how you do it.” They want to use our approach and processes to jump start innovation in their own culture and improve their speed to market. We are happy to share.
By observing BOLTGROUP, clients will see three valuable capabilities they can employ themselves:
1. User-Centric Insight Gathering
The goal of innovating is to create value in new products for the end user. To do that you must first find opportunities to do so. Insight gathering starts with the end user. We’ve developed techniques for observing, building empathy, understanding, and making connections that lead to advancements in the end user experience. Of the many lessons we teach around this phase, a few stand out. First—selecting the right user groups. Sometimes it’s product pros and enthusiasts. Sometimes novices. And sometimes outliers who’ve paved their own way in the category and can show us a likely future scenario. Second—skilled listening and observation. We have developed techniques to inspire people to show us what they truly think and how they act, and well-tuned antennas that recognize insights we see and hear. Third—capturing and translating the insights. We use technology to record insights. And we work hard to analyze and translate those insights into actionable strategies for our client—so the end result makes a difference in our clients’ business.
2. Divergent Ideating and Quick Concept Iterating
A key to our creative process is for designers to ideate with a goal to quickly generate and explore lots of ideas based on user insights. Ideation, brainstorming, concept generation—these are all methods of making connections between things that previously seemed disconnected. As a creative firm, we use techniques that spur creative thinking and foster connections. First we recognize that some connections are made between disparate aspects of an issue. We look for connections between a user insight and a new engineering material, between a brand attribute and a product feature, between a need for sustainability and the human factor.
Also, we appreciate how our team members work best. We understand where they fit within the continuum between concentration and collaboration—and we make sure to work both ends. Brainstorming is alternated with head-down, independent ideation. The back and forth between collaboration and concentration unleashes the best creative thought.
Sometimes collaboration / concentration is better in twos—two creative people in a friendly competition for the most compelling ideas. Sometimes it’s better in larger groups—shared ideas inspire other ideas. And sometimes it’s best individually—where deep thought focuses in on a thorny problem. At BOLTGROUP we do all three, and we do them with people from varied backgrounds to add spice to the idea soup.
3. Testing and Improving
Idea generating and concept sketching can only go so far. After selecting the most promising concepts, we rapidly build rough models for concept testing. The goal here is to test a key aspect of the concept, gain insights, then iterate the process, improving the concept. Then repeat by building and testing the next model, and so on.
While we don’t really offer an Innovation Class to clients (many skills are difficult to teach, such as developing empathy for the end user), we do believe that by sharing experiences, processes, and insights, we both benefit. After all, learning is a two-way street. In every engagement, we learn from our clients. That’s why we love to help clients not only apply what we have discovered for them, but also what they discovered for themselves.
So, for the next new product development program, go hire a good design or product development firm. Follow them in to the field, participate in ideation sessions, watch the process, and take notes. It could be the innovation boost your in-house team is looking for.