Try These Focus Groups with an Insightful Twist!


Debate-style focus groups are a great way to learn more about consumer preferences. This style of focus groups amps up the disparities between product supporters and detractors or heavy users and light/non-users by putting them in the same room and asking them to debate your product’s merit vs. other options!

Debate style focus groups require two groups of consumers to come in at the same time. The process begins with a brief discussion with each group in separate rooms with a moderator  (i.e. heavy users in one room and non-users in the 2nd room). The moderators work with each of the groups to form the basis of their debate arguments. The groups are then brought together in one room to debate the topic at hand (for example, “Apple makes the best laptop computers for business professionals” may be the topic debated). One group will agree and the other disagree. The arguments that come out provide a deeper understanding of the category benefits,  how your product performs in that category, key product and category drivers, consumer perceptions and attitudes about your product and others in the category, etc. The moderators’ role during the debate is to keep the discussion genuine, probe on key issues and encourage group participation.  At the conclusion of the debate, the groups return to their separate rooms to debrief with their respective moderators on what was most convincing from the other side and which of their arguments they felt held up and which did not.

Debate-style focus groups provide a new level of insight and understanding you are unlikely to get from traditional focus groups. It’s also highly engaging and entertaining for the people observing in the back room!

IGNiTE your team with new consumer insights!

Cindy Diamond, President

IGNiTE, facilitating creativity and innovation


Creativity and the Spaces We Work In


We all know the impact that the space we work in has on our productivity and creativity. As facilitators and participants in group process, we feel great when we have light, air and space to move around. It helps us think more creatively and keep our energy high. Now, there’s scientific research that backs this up. This interesting article in the Wall Street Journal confirms what we know intuitively — the space we work in strongly impacts the job we do and even our physical health!

Here’s to great creative spaces!

Cindy Diamond

Building a Thinking Room

Wall Street Journal, Saturday April 30th by Jonah Lehrer

For thousands of years, people have talked about architecture in terms of aesthetics. Whether discussing the symmetry of the Parthenon or the cladding on the latest Manhattan skyscraper, they focus first on how the buildings look, on their particular surfaces and style.

Today, it turns out, the real cutting edge of architecture has to do with the psychology of buildings, not just their appearance. Recently, scientists have begun to focus on how architecture and design can influence our moods, thoughts and health. They’ve discovered that everything—from the quality of a view to the height of a ceiling, from the wall color to the furniture—shapes how we think.

Recently, for example, researchers at Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health tracked 60 white-collar workers at a government facility in the central U.S. Some had been randomly assigned to an old office building, with low ceilings and loud air-conditioners. The rest got to work in a recently renovated space filled with skylights and open cubicles.

[JOHNA]Millenium Images

For the next 17 months, the scientists tracked various metrics of emotional well-being, such as heart-rate variability and levels of stress hormone. They discovered that people working in the older building were significantly more stressed, even when they weren’t at work. The scientists said the effect was big enough to be a potential risk factor for heart disease.

But spaces can also help us to become more creative and attentive. In 2009, psychologists at the University of British Columbia studied how the color of a background—say, the shade of an interior wall—affects performance on a variety of mental tasks. They tested 600 subjects when surrounded by red, blue or neutral colors—in both real and virtual environments.

The differences were striking. Test-takers in the red environments, were much better at skills that required accuracy and attention to detail, such as catching spelling mistakes or keeping random numbers in short-term memory.

Though people in the blue group performed worse on short-term memory tasks, they did far better on tasks requiring some imagination, such as coming up with creative uses for a brick or designing a children’s toy. In fact, subjects in the blue environment generated twice as many “creative outputs” as subjects in the red one.

Why? According to the scientists, the color blue automatically triggers associations with openness and sky, while red makes us think of danger and stop signs. (Such associations are culturally mediated, of course; Chinese, for instance, tend to associate red with prosperity and good luck.)

It’s not just color. A similar effect seems to hold for any light, airy space. In 2006, Joan Meyers-Levy, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota’s school of management, studied the relationship between ceiling height and thinking style. She demonstrated that, when people are in a high-ceilinged room, they’re significantly better at seeing the connections between seemingly unrelated subjects. In one experiment, undergraduates came up with nearly 25% more connections between different sports, such as chess and basketball, when sitting in a loft-like space than in a room with an 8-foot ceiling. Instead of focusing on particulars, they were better able to zoom out and see what various things had in common.

Although we’re only starting to grasp how the insides of buildings influence the insides of the mind, it’s possible to begin prescribing different kinds of spaces for different tasks. If we’re performing a job that requires accuracy and focus (say, copy editing a manuscript), we should seek out confined spaces with a red color scheme. But for tasks that require a little bit of creativity, we seem to benefit from high ceilings, lots of windows and bright blue walls that match the sky.

One day, we might be able to firmly ground the forms of architecture in their mental functions.

Aligning your work with your values


I recently had the pleasure of attending a workshop by Dr. John Demartini. The topic was on Fulfilling Your Destiny. Dr. Demartini spoke about the importance of knowing what you truly value most and aligning what you do with those values. When you are living a life aligned with your values you feel fulfilled, when you are not it may create  frustration, anxiety and/or depression.

I have seen this so many times in the work place. People are anxious about their jobs, can hardly get out of bed in the morning to get to work and dread Monday mornings. These are clear signs from your body & mind that you are in a job that is not aligned with your highest values.

This also applies to any type of relationship. If each person supports the other persons highest values most of the time and provides some challenge to those values some of the time the relationship will flourish and grow. When those things are out of balance, the relationship will be stressed.

This can be applied very effectively in the workplace. If you want something from someone else and you approach them with only your values in mind, they may resist. But if you can make your request in terms of how their highest values will be served, you will both be satisfied.

Now, for the facilitation angle: when facilitating teams it’s important to understand the values of that team and the individuals that comprise the team. That way, the facilitator can more effectively moderate the conversation and help participants present their needs, wants and ideas in a way that serves the values of his or her team members. That’s the real meaning of seeing something from someone else’s point of view!

Learn more about John Demartini and his work at

Cindy Diamond

President, IGNiTE

Permission to be Innovative


What's really difficult about innovation is giving people permission to be innovative!

More than time and space to innovate, organizations need to give people room for failure. Better yet, reward people for taking a risk and failing.  Too often we are charged with innovation and then punished for failing to deliver the forecast.  Real innovation success is often preceded by failures (yes, often more than one).  If you want to break through and truly discover new territory, you must have permission to take risks; risk taking means there is a chance for failure.


Blue Ocean Strategy Process for Innovation


Blue Ocean Strategy offers a unique approach to thinking about innovation. The basic premise is that you seek out territory for innovation that is not in a crowded competitive space (called a “red ocean”).  The  Blue Ocean Innovation strategy can take months to complete if it’s conducted as it was intended to be — as a blueprint for a new operating model. However, I have had great success in creating Blue Ocean Strategy style workshops for innovation on a smaller scale.

The Blue Ocean Strategy tools of mapping the competitive space and seeking out white space are good tools for many different types of innovation projects — particularly new product development. I have successfully used these tools to facilitate structured workshops which help brand teams come up with new products and new ways to market those products. The key to these workshops is in getting the clients to focus on areas the competition has ignored. This strategy is similar to the one discussed  years ago by Michael Porter when he said if everyone else is going in one direction, you might be better off going the other direction.

The tools I have found most useful in facilitating smaller scale Blue Ocean type projects are: 1) Creating the “as-is” strategy map; 2) Six Paths analysis; 3) Identifying non-customer commonalities — The 3 tiers of non-customers and 4) 4) Four Actions framework and the “to-be” strategy canvases. Use of these tools, together with some simple fieldwork conducted by team members between the 2 workshop days, can yield some very surprising, interesting and fertile results!

Posted by Cindy Diamond

CEO, IGNiTE. . . fueling innovation and creativity

Sinnovation: The 10 Deadly Sins of Innovation


BusinessWeek ran an article last week on the 7 deadly sins of innovation.  Let me know which ones you face most often and how you deal with it! Here’s a summary of the article:

Sinnovation – BusinessWeek

October 21, 2009 (2:38 PM) by GMM

The seven deadly sins of the innovator—and how you can stop yourself from committing them

Just for fun, let’s take a look at seven of the most common and deadly sins of the innovator. We’ve seen all of these cause failures of Biblical proportions.

1. Lust. Innovating in a space you have no business being in. Trying to innovate outside your operational expertise or brand footprint creates incredible inertia internally. It also causes unhealthy confusion externally. “Wait,” the customer says. “My longtime supplier of plastic molding injection equipment is now making iPhone (AAPL) accessories? What gives?”

2. Gluttony. Trying to create too many initiatives with too few resources. Innovation takes emotional and financial capital and focus. Instead of making a number of small bets, focus your team and resources on one or two initiatives that have the greatest probability of hitting it big.

3. Greed. Taking short-term profits at the expense of long-term growth. The stock market demands a high rate of return, which naturally results in safe bets like line extensions — leaving you at risk of being blown out of the water by an industry-changing idea. The solution? Create two teams. Put one in charge of evolution and the other in charge of revolution. You’ll get both short- and long-term growth.

4. Sloth. Taking short cuts. Too many otherwise brilliant leaders have made the mistake of thinking that speed and short cuts are the only way to successfully innovate. While we agree that being overly cautious — “Let’s test the idea for the 83rd time” — is also potentially fatal, there is a happy medium. Think big, quantify, qualify, refine, and launch. This should take no more than 12 months.

5. Wrath. Being so focused on your competition that you miss the same opportunities your rivals are missing. You can’t read the label when you are sitting inside the jar. Don’t get kicked to the curb by someone outside your industry who is rightly focused on the consumer (and not either one of you).

6. Envy. In the context of innovation, envy means launching a “me too” product instead of finding a space you can own. So when your sales team comes to you and demands that you launch a product to compete with the “hot” new offering they just saw from the competitor, don’t take the bait.

7. Pride. You won’t give up on your favorite idea — even when the numbers prove you’re wrong. When it comes to your ideas, you must take a long, hard look at the data. Unless the data are overwhelmingly in favor of your idea, drop it and work on the one the team secretly knows is better.

Religion tells us the seven deadly sins are fatal to spiritual progress. We will let you debate that thought with the theologian of your choice. But we can tell you they are definitely fatal if you want to innovate successfully.

Read the full “Sinnovation” article in BusinessWeek

Happy Innovating!

Cindy Diamond

CEO, IGNiTE . . . fueling creativity and innovation

Facilitating Brand Strategy Workshops: Begin with Insights, Ideology, Intention


Insights. Ideology. Intention. These are three crucial components of a successful brand strategy. Set yourself up for success by making sure all of these components are part of your next brand strategy workshop.

Insights: What is that penetrating, discerning understanding about consumer motivations that will unlock opportunity for this brand?  If you don’t know the answer to this question, you need to seek it out prior to having your brand strategy discussions.  Identifying and understanding the key consumer insight that motivates your primary target audience  will ensure that you create a relevant brand promise. Without an insight, your promise is simply a guess as to what will motivate your audience to purchase your brand.

Ideology: Your company’s or division’s core ideology describes why you exist (core purpose), how you operate (core values) and what you are striving for (long-term goal and envisioned future).  Core ideology directly impacts your brand strategy. If your brand does not reflect your core ideology your company will be perceived as disconnected from the brand and in conflict with it (think of companies that don’t deliver on their brand promises . . . for example, some airlines & some cable companies). In fact, you may be percieved as trying to defraud your consumer. If not that severe, you will likely disenfranchise them.  With a clearly delineated and embodied core ideology, your brand strategy will reflect your purpose and values and help you to reach your goal.

Intention:  With your insights and ideology in place, you are ready to begin your work on the brand strategy. This work must be conducted with clarity and intention.  Getting to clarity and intention requires sacrifice. Your team must be aware from the beginning that a strong brand strategy is the best choice between many options — it’s essential to make choices to maintain focus and clarity. Remember that clear focus on your primary target audience will help you create a brand strategy that hits the bulls-eye and is meaningful and relevant.  Without sacrifice and intention your strategy will become diluted and will likely not be meaningful to anyone!

Your brand strategy influences and, in some cases, directs your communications strategy, product strategy and customer experience strategy.  A well thought out brand strategy that ties into your target audience insights and builds on your core ideology will be enduring, relevant and motivating both internally and externally!

Cindy Diamond — President, Chief Strategist and Facilitator

IGNiTE . . . fueling creativity and innovation