With 2023 on the horizon, many brands and businesses are looking to define new paths.
A first step forward can be through idea generation, and we previously spoke with Jeremy Utley about the practice and value of generating ideas.
In this interview, Cerrone Lundy, Director at Vivaldi, shares how valuable ideas get put into action, the importance of true ideation sessions, and the mindset shift that needs to occur for companies to prepare for the future.
One of the keys is found in the implementation of a model that Vivaldi CEO Erich Joachimsthaler calls the “interaction field” model. As Joachimsthaler explains, interaction field companies “generate, facilitate, and benefit from interactions and data exchanges among multiple people and groups.” Read on about why this is the business model of the future.
When it comes to idea generation, how do you distinguish between an “ideation session” and a “brainstorm”?
“Brainstorm,” in my opinion, is one of those words that’s used so flippantly and so often that its lost its meaning. There’s no stimulus, no clear roles, output, goal, no clear exercises and activities. An ideation session is very different in that it has that structure that you need to actually generate useful ideas. That’s critical.
You’ve said that for something to be a real idea, it needs to pass the “crumpled paper” test — can you elaborate on what that test is?
The crumpled paper test is essentially taking what you believe is an idea, writing it down on a piece of paper, and then asking yourself, if you were able to crumple that piece of paper up and toss it out a window, could a passerby pick that up, smooth it out, and then actually execute on your idea with 95 – 99% fidelity. And if a random passerby could not actually do that, you have an idea starter. It’s not an actual idea yet. It’s just the inkling of an idea. It’s only when you get to a specific level of clarity around something, would it be what I consider an idea. Now it has entered a space where it is executable in a way that is true to the essence and the desire of the idea creator, or the teams of people that created that idea.
After you’ve generated ideas, how do you know which ones to follow through on?
There’s a bit of an art and a science to it. The science is, often there are metrics when it comes to what kinds of ideas can actually move forward. You don’t necessarily want to be culling ideas when you are generating because that changes the energy of the room. Once you’ve generated a lot of ideas, then you often need to go back to the metrics you started off with, and ask — do these fit within the scope of what our client can do? Is this stuff too fanciful to actually be executed? Does it actually have a potential to generate income? Whatever those metrics may be.
In addition, there’s a bit of the art to it. Sometimes you have “kitchen sink ideas,” and you can tell it’s just an amalgam of things, but there’s no focus to the idea. It’s like, a fork that also brushes your hair and you can use it on your dog and it also picks up antenna messages from space. True, it’s an idea and you can probably write it to pass the crumpled paper test, but it’s not a great idea and has no focus. It’s not solving a particular problem and may just not make sense.
At Vivaldi we’ve been talking a lot about reinvention — at what point do companies need to think about reinventing themselves?
I think that organizations should always be asking themselves what can be changed, what can be reinvented. There’s the core of the organization, the brand essence, the reason the organization exists, and that should be pretty stable, but marketplaces, technology, and consumer desires are changing so much that you need to always be in this role of pushing yourself forward and not sitting on your laurels. When organizations get to a place where they’re so comfortable that they aren’t capable of looking at themselves, that’s when they get disrupted. You should always be looking at what you’re doing and be introspective while paying attention to what’s going on around you. Otherwise you’re destined to become a fossil. A victim of circumstances.
In some of the projects you’re working on at Vivaldi, you’re not just generating or presenting ideas, you’re actually building products and systems. Knowing that you’re going to be building something, how does that affect your approach to that idea generation or conception stage?
It shouldn’t. If you’re an innovator and a strategist and you’re coming up with an idea that you’re like, “I hope I never have to do this,” it’s probably not a great idea. It can be difficult of course, and it can potentially involve something that’s not in your skill set, but you should always think, “how would I execute this thing?” Even if the answer is, “I would find someone who is an expert in x y and z.” If you don’t have that conviction to put your skin in the game, then it’s easy to come up with crazy ideas and hope someone else will figure it out, or pray to the innovation gods that the solution will drop out of the sky. It is much more personal and important to feel like you have a stake in it. You’re not expected to be a master of every category, but you should have some perspective on it and ideally some passion around it.
Some of the systems that are being built are what Vivaldi calls “interaction fields.” How can a company know that it could benefit from being part of an interaction field?
Interaction fields are going to be the business models of the future and there are very few organizations that would not benefit from forming, connecting with, or integrating themselves with a larger interaction field. The notion behind them is that value is generated for all the participants. You don’t necessarily need to be the nucleus, the generator, of an interaction field, but understanding where your organization fits and what interaction fields are out there to generate value for your organization and your organization’s participants.
I think it’s very difficult for people to get out of thinking about the pipeline model or the platform model. A lot of organizations, even consulting organizations, are still essentially pipeline organizations and there’s a shift in how one thinks about business, and even how businesses talk, that needs to happen in order to really embrace this idea of cooperation as opposed to competition.
It’s a mindset shift if you’ve been going down one pathway for a long time.
Even beyond that, there’s this sense of scarcity mindset versus abundance mindset. So much of our society is based on a scarcity mindset, or stealing share as opposed to finding ways to grow the pie. Scarcity mindset is often a killer of ideas, the sense of “we can’t do that” or “we’re bound by this,” as opposed to an abundance mindset of saying, “what if we did this,” “how could we do this,” “let’s push this and see where it goes.” That’s inherent in an abundance mindset and inherent in being able to generate really interesting new creative ideas. If you’re blocked off by the sense of scarcity, by the sense of what you can’t do, then you’re going to come up with the same ideas that everyone’s always come up with since the beginning of time.
Cerrone Lundy is a Director at Vivaldi. He works with organizations to better understand their client needs and create products, services, experiences and more.