Leveraging Innovation Summits as Ingenuity Catalysts

The bigger the company and the greater its internal resources, the easier it is to believe that “we have all the answers internally” when it comes to innovation and marketing ideas.  And many people rightly complain that some brainstorming sessions create heaps of undeveloped ideas that never go anywhere.  Yet two recent innovation summits that we were involved with have reminded us of the dramatic value that savvy, experienced outsiders with a fresh perspective can bring to a project in just a few days. Read our two brief case studies and learning for the future:

The Reframing Summit

The first event was an innovation summit we engineered for a Fortune 100 consumer products company to help reframe a category/need-state they wanted to enter and find “blue oceans” (i.e., to find untapped new market opportunities that are strongly differentiated and, ideally, will grow the market).  The participants included the project team, hand-picked innovators from across the corporation’s divisions, and a wide array of outside experts from marketing and innovation agencies.  Together with the client and facilitator, it was a 2-½-day process comprised of:

  • Immersion to develop common understanding of the marketplace, consumer, competition, technology, etc.

  • Stimulus sessions to stretch people’s creativity and illuminate new strategic directions, featuring 3 interactive sessions:
    1. Blue Ocean Strategy led an overview of how different strategic choices can redraw market lines via 6 key paths
    2. Jeff Goldstein introduced how the cognitive science of Schemas and Conceptual Blends guide how we think and can be vehicles for simple, crystal-clear-to-consumers innovation breakthroughs
    3. Jeff also introduced innovation Success Avenues™ leveraging 11 relevant models drawn from our database
  • Platform Development & Assessment to convert insights and ideas into full reframing strategies and new product ideas, and then evaluate and prioritize those strategic platforms. 

The results included 12 prioritized new platform opportunities and a much deeper strategic understanding of the opportunities.  Client feedback ranged from “transformational” to “best experience in my career.”  The project team was energized, presented the platforms to corporate leadership, and used them to channel and focus subsequent innovation directions.

The New Brand Summit

The second event was hosted by another great innovation agency and was designed to develop 4 new brand “vector” opportunity areas we had identified into more robust, fully articulated product concepts.  Participants included the project team, the agency strategists and creatives, and outside branding and beverage category practitioners (cooks, mixologists, etc.).  The 1-½-day session included:


  • Orientation – A brief review of the objectives, process, and research to-date
  • Platform Development for each of the 4 areas, using magazines and discussions as stimuli to help complete templates and dioramas to illustrate platform ideas
  • Distillation by the core team to vote on, refine, and prioritize platforms

Results were strong, with 2 unique concept ideas developed for each of the 4 vectors, and diverse/unexpected creative value via new ideas, added ingredients, unique brand characters, product names, etc.  After qualitative refinement, 3 of the 6 new beverage concepts generated top scores in consumer testing versus the concept database.

Key Learning From Innovation Summits

  • Both sessions avoided the “heap of ideas” brainstorming trap by having a well-defined purpose and output, using templates to structure ideas, and prioritizing and refining steps throughout
  • It’s important to have clearly defined processes to promote discussion in both large and small groups – in the first summit, the large group discussions were most illuminating, whereas in the second, the small groups yielded the “ah-ha” moments
  • The first session had a longer duration and richer sources of inspiration and stimuli, which, we believe, added extra value
  • “Voting” on ideas or areas can be helpful to prioritize, yet the commentary by passionate advocates of an idea and the ensuing discussion often illuminate new insights in ways that shift votes or may trump the group results
  • Visual templates and live illustrators can capture a dynamic living event, plus stimulate better dialogue and a more fun and creative atmosphere
  • Including people experienced in the particular category as some of the outside participants brings extra perspective beyond that of “merely” including smart/diverse people

Bottom-line, there’s no monopoly on good ideas, no matter the size of the company or the research conducted to-date.

If you want to battle-test your proposition, identify new growth opportunities, or generate/further develop robust innovation or marketing ideas, Innovation Summits can be great catalysts for success.  Contact us if you’d like additional recommendations or help obtaining thought-provoking stimuli or expert resources.