When I facilitate ideation or brainstorming sessions as part of a new product development process one of my favourite challenges for marketing or innovation teams trying to develop new concepts is this:

As I hold up a lap top I ask the group:

What might a kid’s computer look like?

They normally respond with larger buttons, colourful shades of the lap top, easy to use software etc.

All good ideas.

But my vision of a kid’s computer might be in the shape of a ball that the young child rolls from room to room.

They then open it up and sit on it as they start connecting with the other ‘computer balls’ in the rooms (owned by their siblings). They can wrestle on it, eat their food etc.

What has happened?

My vision is a long way from the group’s. Not to say that my ideas are any better but they are different and more original.

It is about this time that some individuals in the group have an ‘aha’ moment.

I had deliberately framed and led the group’s ideas because I had shown them what exists at the moment.

For many marketing and innovation people this is a trap. Often they want to take what exists at the moment (i.e. the current product) and move it incrementally forward.

But to develop breakthrough new products we need to start at a different place.

Start designing with the perfect or ideal product concept in mind.

Then design back to what exists at the moment.

You can then identify the gaps and where are the opportunities.

Using this type of thinking will help you escape the incremental and me-too race.

The key message?

When you are in a new product development phase — ignore your and the competitor’s current product range and design the perfect product or proposition first and see where that takes you.


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