While watching the Valero Texas Open 2014 PGA golf tournament last weekend I was completely taken aback by an everyday :30 commercial. On its surface it seemed simple enough: a family in the car driving down the road. Suddenly, the vehicle develops a mind of its own, quickly steering itself to its favorite station and leaving the driver without any choice or control, the fear clearly evident on his face. Ordinarily I might have seen some humor in it, but with the recent GM headlines and the billion-dollar Toyota acceleration settlement, the premise was insensitive at best, alarming at worst. Their creative team fell down a bit on the AAAA Standards of Practice tenet stating, “We agree not to recommend, and discourage the use of, advertising that is in poor or questionable taste or that is deliberately irritating through aural or visual content presentation.” For the brand, chances are it’s not getting the type of recognition it had hoped for.
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don't know we don't know.”
Donald Rumsfeld may have been speaking about the Iraq war, but he also aptly describes the attitude of many innovation teams. One of the biggest sources of consternation we’ve found for teams charged with finding white space opportunities is not knowing when they know enough to start innovating. There is a tendency to default to conducting extensive upfront quantitative research, including segmentation mapping, needs assessments, habits and practices studies, etc. before trying to create new ideas. And while it’s sort of clichéd, there’s a lot of truth to the term, “paralysis by analysis.” When it comes to innovation, our approach to research is don’t search for answers; look for inspiration. Because you’re highly unlikely to identify breakthrough opportunities by researching the current state—the key is to find insights that can help stimulate breakthrough thinking.