#InnovatorsMeetup In Review – Virtual Ideation: Activating Customer Insights into Testable Concept Prototypes

The big question lingered as #innovatormeetup members rolled in the meeting space at the West Regional Library in Cary…Can virtual ideation really work? Can it replace in-person brainstorming and ideation sessions? More importantly, can it be effective when working on physical products? 

Our featured speaker and innovator was Ty Hagler, who is the Principal at Trig® an award-winning innovation, design, and marketing firm based in Chapel Hill, NC.

First, Ty is just a cool dude. He was once an Olympic hopeful in sprint kayaking. He believes in building innovation processes built both for speed and long-term success. And boy does he and his team deliver. In 2016, Trig became a force to be reckoned within the design community, taking home a pair of IDEA awards for its work with cycling products manufacturer ALTR Ergo and medical device company 410 Medical.

Ty has some serious innovation chops. But could he pull this off?

YES, he did. He gave us the case of innovating how to prevent Anaphylaxis or a possibly fatal allergic reaction for our virtual ideation experience. Let’s say someone has been stung by a bee or ate a peanut when allergic.  The whole process is complicated. When someone is experiencing an allergic reaction, his/her cognitive ability is impaired, yet they must make the decision if they should inject themselves with an EpiPen or not. Someone around this person may not know if they should use the EpiPen or may not know how to use it. The allergic person may not have the EpiPen on them.

That was the case we were to brainstorm using this virtual ideation process. We used an application called Batterii, which is an innovation and ideation platform. Ty gave us two challenge statements to create ideas around.

  • What if we change the shape of the EpiPen so it is more likely a person with an allergy would carry it at all times.
  • What if some sort of AI component was integrated into the EpiPen to ensure anyone using it knew how, when, etc.

Meetup participants were unleashed on their computers or phones to come up with as many ideas in 5 minutes. Not together, but on their own using their own device. They could post virtual sticky notes with any ideas. Ideas ranged from a wearable Epipen to an AI component that monitors key vital signs after an injection to determine whether to deploy or not. There were 50 ideas generated on this virtual platform in 5 minutes from 25 people. No one knew who posted what idea, so people were free to let loose.  It worked.

3 Things I Learned:

1- Individuals working alone are 4X more likely to solve a problem. Hmmm–can that be right? Yes, Ty cited empirical evidence that proves this. In a group, people are too polite, conscious of authority or politics, so the best solutions aren’t necessarily the ones that come out of a group session.

2- Goals for brainstorming sessions are confused – the goal of an ideation session should be to drive better creative performance, not team building necessarily. Hence why traditional brainstorming sessions may be successful at team building, but not generating the most innovative solutions or ideas.

3- Using a tool like Batterii that facilitates ideation in a group, but virtually, is a viable option in brainstorming or innovation sessions. The most interesting observation is that no one waited for more instruction like you often see in live group brainstorming sessions, everyone just added ideas – no hesitation.

Thanks Ty for your insights and the experience. You nailed it.  

You can connect with Ty on Twitter, LinkedIn, or his blog. You can also follow Trig Innovation on Twitter.

Join our Carolinas Innovators & Design Thinkers Meetup to experience similar innovation insights and practice real-live-no-jive innovation and design thinking. We meet the second Tuesday every month.




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K. Melissa Kennedy

Chief Innovation Officer, Founder, Intrapreneur. Entrepreneur. Enthusiastic leader and speaker. Teller of truths at 48 Innovate
I spent many years working for and building successful companies. I parlayed that experience into a unique process for harnessing hidden assets inside organizations and turning them into big-idea-generating, $1-billion-revenue-producing resources. (Spoiler alert: it’s the people.) I'm an internationally acclaimed expert, happy to share the not-so-secrets that have led to impressive outcomes for Fortune 100 corporations, major educational institutions, start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Working with companies like Cisco, Lancope, Arby's, Capitol Broadcasting Company New Media - WRAL, PRSONAS, Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog, REVO Communications, Erno Group, Focus Carolina, Madan Global, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, INZONE Brands, Albright Digital, Spring Metrics and NC State Kenan Fellows.

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