Thought processes

first_imgConsultantscharge thousands of pounds to tell you new ways of thinking about yourbusiness. Here are some inspiring ways to help you revolutionise yourorganisation’s performanceTheDelphi techniqueInancient Greece, if you wanted to know the future you asked the oracle atDelphi. Thetechnique is quite specialised. You would only use it when you wanted to callon the ideas of a group of experts (who are probably geographically separated)to produce a forecast. It has been used to make predictions ranging from futuretrends in logistics management to expected tourism levels in Singapore.Thetechnique for this kind of forecasting is long-winded, but effective. You needto construct a questionnaire based around the scenario you want forecast. Thisquestionnaire is then mailed (or e-mailed) to each expert.Thisnon-interactive forecasting technique generates creative input from a disparategroup of people. Questionnaires are mailed to each member of the group, theirresponses combined and refined, and then returned to them. This processcontinues until consensus is reached.Whenthe results are returned they must be analysed and summarised. These summariesare then returned to the experts, who are asked to revise their responses wherenecessary. If any response varies widely from those of the rest of the group,the expert is asked to justify their difference of opinion.Therevised responses, and any justifications, are then summarised andrecirculated. This process of summarising and revising continues until thegroup reaches a consensus.Thistechnique arguably generates a lower level of creativity than some, but it hasa number of advantages:–It can bring together the ideas of experts who are geographically separate.–Everyone has an equal input.–Ideas remain linked to the person who generated them, which can be useful whenexperts are being used.–Ideas are not influenced by group pressure.Thereare disadvantages to the Delphi technique which you need to take into accountbefore you use it:–The quality of the questionnaires and the input of the analyst are hugelyimportant in the success of the process.–It is time-consuming, even if you use e-mail to communicate with your group ofexperts. Summarising and refining the responses takes time.–It lacks the spontaneity of many other techniques.Supposeyou want your group of experts to predict the most important trends over thenext ten years in the fast-food industry. A typical set of questions could be:–What are the greatest threats facing the fast-food industry over the next tenyears?–What are the greatest opportunities?–What type of service will customers be looking for? –What will customers want in terms of product range?–How do you see the size of the fast-food market changing in the next ten years?Takethe first question as an example. You might find that you get a list of 20threats. In that case, try to summarise them into broad categories – too muchcompetition, increasing costs, lack of suitable locations – and return thissummary to your experts for them to agree or revise. Perhaps just one of yourexperts came out of left field and suggested that a huge increase invegetarianism would threaten the conventional fast-food market. In that case,ask them to justify this prediction and circulate their evidence.Gothrough this process with the whole questionnaire. After a couple more tripsback and forth, you should arrive at a summarised response to yourquestionnaire which all your experts are happy with.TheFCB gridTheFCB grid is the brainchild of Richard Vaughn of the Foote, Cone and Beldingadvertising corporation. He devised it to help identify the market position ofproducts and services, and to spot any gaps in the market. If you want toanalyse your position relative to that of your competitors, to look for marketgaps or to formulate a marketing strategy, try drawing an FCB grid.TheFCB grid is a simple matrix, which helps you identify and position new productsand services by creating a visual representation of their place in the market.Start by drawing a four-cell matrix. On one axis mark high involvement and lowinvolvement, and on the other mark think and feel. High involvement representscostly products and services such as holidays, cars and computers. Lowinvolvement represents inexpensive products and services such as dry cleaning,groceries or stationery.Thinkrepresents products and services with which customers are not emotionallyinvolved but which they choose on the basis of verbal, numerical, analyticaland cognitive criteria. These are such things as computer software, cameras anddishwashers. Feel represents products or services that have an emotional appealsuch as beauty products, clothes and fiction books.Youcan now place any product in the correct quadrant of the matrix. For example,you would put breakfast cereal in the bottom left quadrant – lowinvolvement/think. A mortgage goes in the top left section. A designer weddingdress belongs in the top right, and everyday make-up goes in the bottom right.Tomake the FCB grid useful, however, you also need to place products in the rightpart of the quadrant. So a life assurance policy would be part way up thehigh-involvement square, but not as high up as a house or a luxury boat. On theother hand, it would be well over to the left of the think section, because thecustomer selects it on an almost entirely functional rather than emotionalcriteria.Asports car is also a high-involvement product but is probably selected more onthe basis of feeling than thinking. Concrete data about performance isimportant, so it should be close to the think side, but it is generally theimage of the car that sells it so it goes in the top right cell.Youcan place your own products in their rightful positions in the matrix, and alsoput competitors’ products in place. This way, you can see how a group ofproducts is spread out around the matrix.Youmight find that your product falls in the middle of a cluster of competitors’products, or that it is located somewhere very different. Or you mightestablish that your own product or service range is grouped closely togetherand you are missing opportunities to diversify.Thegrid is a valuable way to generate ideas. You might notice that you haveproducts everywhere except in the bottom right quadrant. This should spur youto look at developing low-involvement/feel products.Youcan, of course, put anything else you want to on your axes. You might have arange of fridges with varying capacity, and different sized ice compartments.This makes it easy to see at a glance that what you do not have is alow-capacity fridge with a large ice compartment. Perhaps there is a market forthis with people who buy a lot of frozen foods.Oneof the best advertisements for the FCB grid is Apple Computers. Beforelaunching, Apple drew up a grid of the computer market. All the main playerswere selling computers in the high-involvement/think quadrant. Going into thesame type of market as these huge organisations, such as IBM, would have beenlunacy. SoApple decided to position itself diametrically opposite, in the low-involvement/feelsector. It made a computer for ordinary people and called it a personalcomputer – a much more feely name than, for instance, a minicomputer. Thecompany adopted a marketing strategy which emphasised that its computers werepart of a whole new concept, designed for non-experts and really user-friendly.This was the strategy that made it so successful competing against the industrygiants.TheLotus Blossom techniqueThisis a popular method of generating ideas in a group because it flows fast fromone theme to another. It is also useful to use on your own, and is helpful atthe start of a process to generate ideas. Itis also valuable in finding new applications for existing products ortechnologies. This is something the Japanese are very good at and the techniquewas developed in Japan by Yasuo Matsumura, president of Clover ManagementResearch, and is sometimes known as the MY method after his initials.Lotusblossoms radiate out from the centre. In this technique, ideas radiate out fromthe centre following the same pattern. These ideas, in turn, become the centreof a new lotus blossom.Thistechnique takes a central theme and finds ideas for it. Each idea then becomesa central theme with more ideas radiating out from it, and so on.Startby writing your central theme or issue in the centre of the MY lotus blossom.In each of the eight squares around the central square, write a related idea.If you are working in a group you can brainstorm these eight ideas. Nowtransfer the ideas to the central squares in the outer ring of boxes andsurround each one with another eight ideas. You can repeat the process with anyof these ideas at the centre of a lotus flower.Youwill find, especially if you radiate out more than twice, that your ideas beginto dry up. Even two iterations will generate 64 ideas. If you used every one ofthese as the centre of a new lotus flower you would give yourself scope for afurther 512 ideas, so be realistic. After the basic two iterations, create newboxes for only the most promising ideas, and aim simply to fill in as manysquares as you can.Insteadof writing eight ideas around the central box, you might prefer to list eightattributes of a product or problem. If you are looking for new ideas fordesigning telephones, say, you might list receiver, handset, buttons, ringer,memory, special features, casing and sound quality. You can then brainstormideas around each one.Furtherinformation–www.directedcreativity.com hasa collection of creativity techniques.–www.edwdebono.com gives information onmost of Edward de Bono’s work in the teaching of creativity.–www.thinksmart.com has articles fromthe Innovation Network on personal creativity and organisational innovation.–www.whatagreatidea.com the website of Charles “Chic” Thompson, author of What a Great Idea and Yes,But.–www.enchantedmind.com awell-designed site with a great deal of information on creativity techniques.Rightside is the bright side for ideasMindmapping is a right-brain approach to recording and generating ideasIfyou are using the creative right side of your brain, you inhibit its potentialby using the logical left side strongly at the same time. The more you focusyour thinking in one hemisphere, the more productively it works, so if you aretrying to think creatively you do not want to focus your left brain on recordingyour ideas in a structured, logical manner.Mindmapping is a right-brain approach to recording ideas but also helps you togenerate ideas because it gives your creative mind free rein. It encourages youto let go of boundaries and structures and to think expansively.Developedin the mid-1970s by Tony Buzan, mind maps are a visual and free-form method ofdeveloping ideas using right-brain thinking. They use association literally todraw connections between ideas and to create a map of a subject. Buzan originallydeveloped this technique for note taking, but it became apparent that it worksextremely well for generating new ideas.Thebasic gist of mind mapping is to begin with a central theme, encapsulated as akey word, which you write in the centre of your page – most people prefer toturn an A4 sheet around so it is in landscape format. You can draw a circle orbox, or any shape you like, around this key word. If the key word is packaging,you might want to draw a 3D cube around it. If it is accommodation you mightdraw a house, and so on.Nowdraw lines leading from this central theme as you generate ideas, and alongeach one write any other key words relating to the theme which spring to mind.Or you might prefer to write the key word with a box or circle around it, andlink this to the central key word with a line.Youcan write other words and ideas related to these key words beside them, or inlines leading off them, or whatever you find works for you. Then just keepgoing, linking and relating ideas.Therearen’t any rules. Your right brain does its own thing, and the aim is to giveit as much freedom as possible. As with brainstorming, anything goes. Get theideas down first and worry later about how useful each one actually is. You canwrite the satellite key words first, and then work on the ideas leading offfrom them. Or just write one of them down and explore that before you move onto the next.Youcan jump around the page, jotting ideas down as you think of them. You cancreate subsidiary groups of words leading from other groups, which lead in turnfrom other groups. You can write your ideas down in any position on the pageyou like. Don’t worry about putting them in the right place – just get yourideas down and explore them.Somepeople never get to grips with mind mapping – the lack of logical structurejust does not suit them. But huge numbers of people who learn the techniquecontinue to use it, and everyone has their own style. Some people producecolourful mind maps, others have pictures everywhere. Some mind maps are neatand use only words, some are a mess with icons and personal symbols.Amind map is very subjective, and the process of creating it is often moreimportant than the end result. Using someone else’s map just does not work.Allsorts of successful business people swear by mind mapping. Among others, theengineer responsible for Boeing’s technical publications unit keeps notes oneverything he needs to know as a series of mind maps in a spiral boundnotebook. He also has a 40 x 4ft mind map he once produced displayed on hiswall.Otherpeople use them to help them decide how and when to sack staff, to developpresentations or proposals, to predict trends, to explore markets and todevelop new products and services. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Thought processesOn 1 May 2001 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more