Bethany Halbreich, currently an Innovation and Creativity Consultant at PepsiCo in New York, discussed how she ensures that fresh and effective ideas keep flowing with Trend Hunter.
How does your team generate great ideas? Do you have certain rituals to make creativity happen?
The best ideas surface via a mixture of methods and the methods always depend on the team. When I work with a team to generate great ideas, I think about the desired result and what I know of who I'll be working with and always go from there.
What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them?
When working with a team, inconsistent motivation levels are bound to surface; depending on the size of the team, one member of the group might be the energizer bunny, and another might be struggling to stay awake. Although this discrepancy in energy levels is inevitable, staying inspired and curious is vital to innovation.
Before I work with a team to generate new ideas, I make sure I've prepared a plethora of tools and methods ahead of time. When I'm creating our schedule or designing a workshop, I always make sure I have at least three activity options within each time block. For me, it's so important to offer something relevant in the moment. If a team is feeling a bit worn-out or frustrated, it's imperative I have a relaxing and meditative option because one must give their brains an intentional rest for cognitive links to form.
All teams operate at a different speed and, when hosting a creativity workshop, I am prepared to offer what might work best for the group and deliver optimal results.
How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and insights?
The company I'm currently working with, PepsiCo, works tirelessly to understand current trends and relevant insights. They understand that a demographic is not just a mosaic of data points, but rather that it's composed of humans; some who want comfort in a beverage, some who want energy, and some who want inspiration. PepsiCo also understands the importance of collaboration. Throughout my time working with them, I have been continuously impressed with their built-in capacity for small to large-scale collaboration.
Do you have specific rituals for resetting to be creative?
Personally, I find travel and taking the time to just have fun is best. When I travel, I feel light and when I feel light, the best ideas come to me. It's incredibly challenging to force yourself to generate good ideas on a particular time-crunch, under pressure, or with insufficient energy.
Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?
The entertainment industry. In brainstorming that is relevant to a particular demographic, understanding aspects of character acting and character development can be incredibly useful. Throughout my time working with teams at PepsiCo, using lessons learned from character acting as a tool has proven to increase solution accuracy.
What are some examples of things you can do to create a culture of innovation?
If your employees are not inspired or motivated, they will not be curious, and if your employees are not curious, they will not be innovative. So many companies make the mistake of creating additional space for creativity to happen without decreasing their employees' work load, but a company cannot increase opportunity without intentionally creating room for their employees to fully utilize it. Creating space for creativity and innovation to happen should be strategic and intentional. Your employees will be creative for your company if they feel it is a priority.
What do you think your industry will look like in 10 years?
I'm not in a particular industry like fashion or food; I work with a companies' employees to generate their most creative ideas. If "creativity" were an industry, that would be mine. Traditional methods of learning and knowledge transference are quickly becoming obsolete, so in 10 years, creativity and ability to innovate will be a more sought-after capability.
What’s the craziest thing you have done to get creative inspiration?
For the past five years, I have been living nomadically. I am hesitant to be stationary because I have a fear that becoming too comfortable in one environment will force a sense of complacency in my life. Although my family and friends think it's insanity, to me, being constantly on the move keeps my creativity wild and my life feeling as vibrant as possible.
In general terms, what do you believe is the best way for brands to connect to their consumers? How do you use this approach to connect to yours?
Get specific. Too many brands think that identifying your target demographic or target generation is enough, it's not. Don't be afraid to develop example characters. If you keep your target broad, you won't appeal to anyone. Most people don't know what they want before it appears before their eyes in some way, shape, or form (i.e. a commercial, an advertisement, etc.)
In other words, if you're trying to appeal to Generation Z and you know Generation Z likes to stand out, don't just design for the person who wants to stand out, you'll go nuts. Create a few imaginary characters, get specific with their persona and develop a storyline. Only then will you truly be able to reach a more accurate understanding of their needs and wants.