July 2010

Hop Aboard The Brainstorming Roller Coaster

2010-10-06T16:09:03-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , |

Thought you’d like to see this sketch I found in my picture folder.

It’s a simple (if not silly) way to plot how, during the brainstorming process, there is shift up and down between gathering many ideas to narrowing to fewer ideas.

[click for larger view]

The technical terms for these thinking styles is divergent production (going in different, many directions) and narrowing ideas is called convergent production (closer, coming together).

These terms were coined in the 1950s by US psychologist, Joy Paul Guilford as part of his “Structure of Intellect” theory.

March 2010

Driving Trial To Drive Sales

2017-03-01T11:56:16-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , , , , |

Mocha Valencia Frappuccino, was the one of the new beverages in the summer of 2002 at Starbucks Coffee. I was the marketing manager in charge of the summer promotion.

The beverage team described the taste profile like eating pieces of “chocolate orange” – like that made by Terry’s. (Which is interesting – because Terry’s Chocolate Orange wasn’t / isn’t a universal flavor the way Oreo Cookie or Orange Creamsicle are).

Anyhow, it became a featured beverage.

I don’t know about you… but orange + chocolate isn’t one of my favorite flavors.

I don’t know about you… but I would never order that flavor… I wouldn’t even try it because it was new and different – it is not a taste that sounds appealing to me.

However, sales of Mocha Valencia Frappuccino did fairly well that summer.


Because partners (employees) in stores sampled it morning, noon, and night. That summer, you couldn’t walk into a Starbucks without a tray of mini-Frappuccino samples being thrust at you.

Long story short – trial led to purchase. Through trial you drive sales.

Allowing me to try your product or service prior to purchase reduces the anxiety I have about buying your product. The risk is gone. I’m not going to fork-out $50 for your software to find out it doesn’t do what I want. I’m not going to buy that phone without first trying out the buttons.

Which leads to this great direct mail ad.

Neat Idea No. 1

How does a phone company get you to try their product before purchase? They get you to try it at the retail store. But how do they get you if you’re not visiting the store?

Below is a way to creatively solve the problem of “how do we get trial of our expensive device.”

[click for larger view]

The purple area is actually cut out… The idea is to put your thumbs through the holes and “try” the BlackBerry…

BlackBerry Thumb Trial

I’m not sure if this ad for this “groundbreaking new phone” drove sales and exceeded expectations. But it was a clever way to engage the customer. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the mail carrier tried it – just for fun – before he delivered it.

Neat Idea No. 2

How do you get people to try grape juice? You could sample in-aisle at the grocery store. Or, maybe have a booth at the mall. But how do you get them in their home? Short of shipping small bottles to customers?

Welch's Taste

Welch’s used a flavor strip in print ads. Peel up the tab and lick to taste. (I wouldn’t recommend this if you found the ad at the doctor or dentist office).

I used to drink grape juice all the time as a kid. I can’t recall ever buying it myself. Perhaps the taste is enough trigger the memory of that flavor as a kid and prompting the addition of “grape juice” to this week’s grocery shopping list?

What are ways you can get your customers to – taste, smell, feel, see, touch, hear – experience your product?

*I’m pretty sure it was 2002 that the Mocha Valencia drink launched, it could have been ’01 or ’03…

June 2009

Take Charge Of Your Life With Problem-Solving

2017-08-19T19:14:56-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , , |

One of my favorite books about problem-solving is Ken Watanabe’s best-selling book, Problem-Solving 101.

In this article, I outline Watanabe’s lesson for finding the root cause of a problem – a key concept. But, ┬ábefore I get into the details, let’s first talk big picture…

What Is Problem-Solving?

What the heck is problem-solving or creative problem-solving anyway?

It’s simply a process of key steps to help – when you have a problem – to understand the problem, think-up potential solutions, and make a decision.

We are problem solvers every day of our life, from parallel parking to figuring out ways to trim your FY’10 budget. Many of our problems are small and involve little risk. For these, we can instantly perform problem-solving steps in our head.

However, when greater risk is involved… for example when it involves big sums of money, significant impact on an organization, or irreversible consequences… these problems need to be “worked” and broken into smaller chunks and run through a step-by-step process. That process is taught in Problem Solving 101.

While different people break the steps into different chunks, the 4-steps Ken outlines are:

  1. Understand the situation.
  2. Identify the root cause of the problem.Idea Sandbox focuses on brainstorming and decision-making in order to have great ideas for your plan.
  3. Develop an effective action plan.
  4. Execute, and modify, until the problem is solved.

The benefits of having a process for problem-solving? As Ken states in the book, “Rather than feeling as though your life is out of control, you can take charge and shape the world around you. Your dreams and goals will seem less out of reach. And you’ll be better able to accomplish whatever you’re passionate enough and imaginative enough to conceive and pursue.”

Problem Solving 101 Cover

The book was originally written to provide kids in Japan with better problem solving and decision-making skills. However, it quickly became a huge success among adult, business leaders.

Translated into English the book is still the perfect read for a younger audience, but also happens to be one of the best primers for adults who need to strengthen their problem-solving skills.

Who needs this book?

This book will be helpful if you’ve got this kind of person at work or school…

Ken could have easily done what most other books do…
Present sample case studies featuring Company XYZ selling their widgets. Describe to us their challenges in building awareness and driving sales. And he would have used a generic image like below…

We’ve got problems with the widgets, Ted.Instead, he chose – for one example – a school band wanting more students to be aware and attend their concerts with original illustrations by Allan Sanders.

While some may say this book is too basic for US business leaders… I’ll argue… If Who Moved My Cheese can be a #1 best seller with the annoyingly simple parable featuring the complainers Hem and Haw, and the smart mice Sniff and Scurry, there is a place for Problem Solving 101.

Lessons from Problem Solving 101

One of the models Ken presents is how to determine Root Cause Of Problems, and how to overcome them.

Determining Root Cause

Step 1: Diagnose the situation and identify the root cause of the problem.

  1. List all the potential root causes of the problem.
  2. Develop a hypothesis for the likely root cause.
  3. Determine the analyses and information required to test the hypothesis.
  4. Analyze and identify the root cause.

Step 2: Develop the Solution

  1. Develop a wide variety of solutions to solve the problem.
  2. Prioritize actions.
  3. Develop an implementation plan.

If you’re not familiar or need a refresher into using the problem-solving tools (below), this books is for you.

  • Logic Tree
  • Yes/No Tree
  • Problem-Solving Design Plan
  • Hypothesis Pyramid
  • Pros and Cons; Criteria and Evaluation

Problem-Solving 101 is a great step-by-step process that is easy for anyone to follow.