Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Strong Ideation Framework Leads to Customer-Centric Products

By Kara Sterner
Director of Innovation
Bumble Bee Foods, LLC

With the rise of agile research, it has never been easier or more cost effective to practice an iterative approach to new product development. Iteration for us at Bumble Bee Foods, LLC takes place in many ways, but when it comes to the front end of innovation, it’s all about understanding consumer behaviors, identifying unmet needs and generating concepts that have the potential to succeed with a core target audience.  

Bumble Bee Foods, LLC has adapted a traditional Stage Gate ® process that allows the business to assess opportunities in a systematic yet empathetic manner.  We have adopted a thinking framework from a “big think” partner called The Rise Group, consisting of two concentric NEEDS circles and an exterior INSPIRATION circle.  On the left is the WE NEED, all things business related (i.e. brand values, strategic plans, financial goals, core competencies, etc.) and on the right is the THEY NEED, all things consumer related (shopping behavior, demo/psychographics, food trends, etc.).  When these circles collide, there is a point in the middle called WE CREATE where the ideas start to flow and new consumer value is created.  The exterior INSPIRATION circle represents the creative behaviors we practice that encourage the two center circles to cross. What I love about this model is that it gives you as an innovation practitioner a way to be creative and pragmatic that produces quality output.

Iteration during ideation happens in all shapes and forms.  It’s practicing the simple actions of building on ideas (yes and… verus yes but…), it’s connecting smaller thoughts into more robust ideas, it’s bringing consumers into the mix for vetting, it’s activating instant research communities to garner more of the “why.”  As we build ideas into concepts, we reach a critical point at which the business needs to decide which concepts we want to further explore and spend resources against in feasibility.  Here is where we activate agile quant concept testing with a partner called GutCheckIt.  The GutCheckIt Concept Testing tool has enabled us to connect with a target audience and weed through concepts in a consumer-centric way in a 7-10 day turnaround time (that’s crazy fast!)

We have established a set of six key metrics to measure all potential concepts against as well as a consistent visual format that allows our Innovation Steering Committee to see the data in a way that drives insightful decisions.  Did this work straight out of the gate?  Absolutely not.  It took a few tries to get things right; but once we figured it out, the conepts were flowing and the funnel began to output against expectations.

There are numerous tools and systems out there to help your company be more consumer-centric and iterative in its approach to new product development, so I encourage you to be bold and try out something new on your next concept development initiative.  It’s amazing what you can do with limited resources as long as you have a solid framework to drive consumer centricity.

Kara Sterner leads the innovation charge at Bumble Bee Foods, LLC touching everything from strategy, to process, to ideation, to commercialization. Kara has deep roots as a marketer having launched international textile collections and as well as brought to life “first-to-market” technologies including 3DTV and Google TV through an insight centric lens.  She made the move into the field of Innovation back in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since.  Prior to joining Bumble Bee Foods, Kara led an internal crowd sourcing platform at Sony Electronics focused on sales & marketing Innovation.  Now at Bumble Bee, she focuses on Consumer Centric New Product Development. 

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