ampl!fy insights + innovation is an innovation consultancy that works with B2B and B2C companies to develop long-term strategy. Innovation Strategist Amy Majerowski spoke with Trend Hunter about forward-thinking mindsets ahead of Future Festival 2017.
TH: What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them?
AM: I think that some companies are very focused on the current quarter or fiscal calendar rather than being focused on longer term innovation. There’s a lot of creativity that you can do in the short term, but the longer term projects bring about innovation on a grander scale. To help clients get around that, we show them a lot of examples of where it’s worked well and benefited the bottom line of a company. Longer term innovation typically demands greater investment and risk, but the payback is usually much greater than the short term innovation. It not only pays back the initial investment, but it pays back much more handsomely. We at ampl!fy were on the client side for so long that we understand what it takes to sell it in to an organization, so we help them with the messaging to help sell it to upper management. Honestly, I think it’s one of our greatest assets: that we were on the client side for many years.
How do you identify trends? What resources do you and your team use to spot trends and insights?
A variety of ways: obviously through reports, through trade shows, through going out and observing what users are doing. Sometimes they’re creating hacks or workarounds to get things to work the way they want to. Users are pretty creative. If they want to get something done, sometimes they do it in their own way. So that’s what we look for when we’re researching.
Do you have rituals for resetting to be creative?
We try to do things that are completely unassociated with an upcoming project. Creativity is about pollinating flowers. Going from a tulip to a petunia helps reset creativity. You might be thinking: “tulip, tulip, tulip,” and then bringing tulip ideas to the petunia helps to see things in a different way. The more you’re exposed to, the more creativity you bring to other things.
Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?
That’s a huge part of creativity, is taking the pollen from one flower to another, or taking the ideas from one industry and bringing it to another completely different product or industry. One of the things that SC Johnson did [when I worked there] was bringing ingredients disclosure to products, which was unheard of at the time for home fragrance products in particular. We noticed in the natural aisles of the stores that consumers looking to purchase healthy products were always looking at the ingredients. So we created a website, WhatsInsideSCJ.com, to bring more transparency to the products to change perception.
What are some examples of things you can do to create a culture of innovation?
The culture centers around people, and a lot of times when companies are struggling around creative cultures, it has to do with fear. I think creative culture has to do with allaying fears. Helping people understand that creativity is not only good for the company but is good for the culture in general. Always bringing new ideas is exciting. Sometimes people are just afraid of change instead of embracing change. So it’s just a matter of allaying their fear by showing that change can be for the better.
How do you generate great ideas? Do you have certain rituals to make creativity happen?
We typically use trends, user insights, trend reports. Sometimes we do our own trend treks to track where different industries are going. Reading articles, doing secondary research, conducting expert interviews -- a variety of sources, really. It depends on the needs and goals of the specific project.
Describe the future.
Everything’s just getting faster. Connections are being made faster, learning is being done quicker, everything is just speeding up. I just expect the future to be faster. My industry is innovation, and things are going to launch faster, they’ll be more creative in order to stand out because more and more things go on the market quicker.
What’s the craziest thing you have done to get creative inspiration?
Part of creativity is putting things together that people don’t expect to go together. It’s just a matter of helping people to think differently about things. We do a lot of user interviews with people that you wouldn’t expect, like talking to people out of the industry who don’t have a link directly to it. Creativity is thinking completely differently, so maybe my norm is crazy, but it seems normal to me!