Thought processes

charge thousands of pounds to tell you new ways of thinking about your
business. Here are some inspiring ways to help you revolutionise your
organisation’s performance

Delphi technique

ancient Greece, if you wanted to know the future you asked the oracle at

technique is quite specialised. You would only use it when you wanted to call
on the ideas of a group of experts (who are probably geographically separated)
to produce a forecast. It has been used to make predictions ranging from future
trends in logistics management to expected tourism levels in Singapore.

technique for this kind of forecasting is long-winded, but effective. You need
to construct a questionnaire based around the scenario you want forecast. This
questionnaire is then mailed (or e-mailed) to each expert.

non-interactive forecasting technique generates creative input from a disparate
group of people. Questionnaires are mailed to each member of the group, their
responses combined and refined, and then returned to them. This process
continues until consensus is reached.

the results are returned they must be analysed and summarised. These summaries
are then returned to the experts, who are asked to revise their responses where
necessary. If any response varies widely from those of the rest of the group,
the expert is asked to justify their difference of opinion.

revised responses, and any justifications, are then summarised and
recirculated. This process of summarising and revising continues until the
group reaches a consensus.

technique arguably generates a lower level of creativity than some, but it has
a number of advantages:

It can bring together the ideas of experts who are geographically separate.

Everyone has an equal input.

Ideas remain linked to the person who generated them, which can be useful when
experts are being used.

Ideas are not influenced by group pressure.

are disadvantages to the Delphi technique which you need to take into account
before you use it:

The quality of the questionnaires and the input of the analyst are hugely
important in the success of the process.

It is time-consuming, even if you use e-mail to communicate with your group of
experts. Summarising and refining the responses takes time.

It lacks the spontaneity of many other techniques.

you want your group of experts to predict the most important trends over the
next ten years in the fast-food industry. A typical set of questions could be:

What are the greatest threats facing the fast-food industry over the next ten

What are the greatest opportunities?

What type of service will customers be looking for?

What will customers want in terms of product range?

How do you see the size of the fast-food market changing in the next ten years?

the first question as an example. You might find that you get a list of 20
threats. In that case, try to summarise them into broad categories – too much
competition, increasing costs, lack of suitable locations – and return this
summary to your experts for them to agree or revise. Perhaps just one of your
experts came out of left field and suggested that a huge increase in
vegetarianism would threaten the conventional fast-food market. In that case,
ask them to justify this prediction and circulate their evidence.

through this process with the whole questionnaire. After a couple more trips
back and forth, you should arrive at a summarised response to your
questionnaire which all your experts are happy with.

FCB grid

FCB grid is the brainchild of Richard Vaughn of the Foote, Cone and Belding
advertising corporation. He devised it to help identify the market position of
products and services, and to spot any gaps in the market. If you want to
analyse your position relative to that of your competitors, to look for market
gaps or to formulate a marketing strategy, try drawing an FCB grid.

FCB grid is a simple matrix, which helps you identify and position new products
and services by creating a visual representation of their place in the market.
Start by drawing a four-cell matrix. On one axis mark high involvement and low
involvement, and on the other mark think and feel. High involvement represents
costly products and services such as holidays, cars and computers. Low
involvement represents inexpensive products and services such as dry cleaning,
groceries or stationery.

represents products and services with which customers are not emotionally
involved but which they choose on the basis of verbal, numerical, analytical
and cognitive criteria. These are such things as computer software, cameras and
dishwashers. Feel represents products or services that have an emotional appeal
such as beauty products, clothes and fiction books.

can now place any product in the correct quadrant of the matrix. For example,
you would put breakfast cereal in the bottom left quadrant – low
involvement/think. A mortgage goes in the top left section. A designer wedding
dress belongs in the top right, and everyday make-up goes in the bottom right.

make the FCB grid useful, however, you also need to place products in the right
part of the quadrant. So a life assurance policy would be part way up the
high-involvement square, but not as high up as a house or a luxury boat. On the
other hand, it would be well over to the left of the think section, because the
customer selects it on an almost entirely functional rather than emotional

sports car is also a high-involvement product but is probably selected more on
the basis of feeling than thinking. Concrete data about performance is
important, so it should be close to the think side, but it is generally the
image of the car that sells it so it goes in the top right cell.

can place your own products in their rightful positions in the matrix, and also
put competitors’ products in place. This way, you can see how a group of
products is spread out around the matrix.

might find that your product falls in the middle of a cluster of competitors’
products, or that it is located somewhere very different. Or you might
establish that your own product or service range is grouped closely together
and you are missing opportunities to diversify.

grid is a valuable way to generate ideas. You might notice that you have
products everywhere except in the bottom right quadrant. This should spur you
to look at developing low-involvement/feel products.

can, of course, put anything else you want to on your axes. You might have a
range of fridges with varying capacity, and different sized ice compartments.
This makes it easy to see at a glance that what you do not have is a
low-capacity fridge with a large ice compartment. Perhaps there is a market for
this with people who buy a lot of frozen foods.

of the best advertisements for the FCB grid is Apple Computers. Before
launching, Apple drew up a grid of the computer market. All the main players
were selling computers in the high-involvement/think quadrant. Going into the
same type of market as these huge organisations, such as IBM, would have been

Apple decided to position itself diametrically opposite, in the low-involvement/feel
sector. It made a computer for ordinary people and called it a personal
computer – a much more feely name than, for instance, a minicomputer.

company adopted a marketing strategy which emphasised that its computers were
part of a whole new concept, designed for non-experts and really user-friendly.
This was the strategy that made it so successful competing against the industry

Lotus Blossom technique

is a popular method of generating ideas in a group because it flows fast from
one theme to another. It is also useful to use on your own, and is helpful at
the start of a process to generate ideas.

is also valuable in finding new applications for existing products or
technologies. This is something the Japanese are very good at and the technique
was developed in Japan by Yasuo Matsumura, president of Clover Management
Research, and is sometimes known as the MY method after his initials.

blossoms radiate out from the centre. In this technique, ideas radiate out from
the centre following the same pattern. These ideas, in turn, become the centre
of a new lotus blossom.

technique takes a central theme and finds ideas for it. Each idea then becomes
a central theme with more ideas radiating out from it, and so on.

by writing your central theme or issue in the centre of the MY lotus blossom.
In each of the eight squares around the central square, write a related idea.
If you are working in a group you can brainstorm these eight ideas. Now
transfer the ideas to the central squares in the outer ring of boxes and
surround each one with another eight ideas. You can repeat the process with any
of these ideas at the centre of a lotus flower.

will find, especially if you radiate out more than twice, that your ideas begin
to dry up. Even two iterations will generate 64 ideas. If you used every one of
these as the centre of a new lotus flower you would give yourself scope for a
further 512 ideas, so be realistic. After the basic two iterations, create new
boxes for only the most promising ideas, and aim simply to fill in as many
squares as you can.

of writing eight ideas around the central box, you might prefer to list eight
attributes of a product or problem. If you are looking for new ideas for
designing telephones, say, you might list receiver, handset, buttons, ringer,
memory, special features, casing and sound quality. You can then brainstorm
ideas around each one.

information has
a collection of creativity techniques. gives information on
most of Edward de Bono’s work in the teaching of creativity. has articles from
the Innovation Network on personal creativity and organisational innovation. the web
site of Charles "Chic" Thompson, author of What a Great Idea and Yes,
But. a
well-designed site with a great deal of information on creativity techniques.

side is the bright side for ideas

mapping is a right-brain approach to recording and generating ideas

you are using the creative right side of your brain, you inhibit its potential
by using the logical left side strongly at the same time. The more you focus
your thinking in one hemisphere, the more productively it works, so if you are
trying to think creatively you do not want to focus your left brain on recording
your ideas in a structured, logical manner.

mapping is a right-brain approach to recording ideas but also helps you to
generate ideas because it gives your creative mind free rein. It encourages you
to let go of boundaries and structures and to think expansively.

in the mid-1970s by Tony Buzan, mind maps are a visual and free-form method of
developing ideas using right-brain thinking. They use association literally to
draw connections between ideas and to create a map of a subject. Buzan originally
developed this technique for note taking, but it became apparent that it works
extremely well for generating new ideas.

basic gist of mind mapping is to begin with a central theme, encapsulated as a
key word, which you write in the centre of your page – most people prefer to
turn an A4 sheet around so it is in landscape format. You can draw a circle or
box, or any shape you like, around this key word. If the key word is packaging,
you might want to draw a 3D cube around it. If it is accommodation you might
draw a house, and so on.

draw lines leading from this central theme as you generate ideas, and along
each one write any other key words relating to the theme which spring to mind.
Or you might prefer to write the key word with a box or circle around it, and
link this to the central key word with a line.

can write other words and ideas related to these key words beside them, or in
lines leading off them, or whatever you find works for you. Then just keep
going, linking and relating ideas.

aren’t any rules. Your right brain does its own thing, and the aim is to give
it as much freedom as possible. As with brainstorming, anything goes. Get the
ideas down first and worry later about how useful each one actually is. You can
write the satellite key words first, and then work on the ideas leading off
from them. Or just write one of them down and explore that before you move on
to the next.

can jump around the page, jotting ideas down as you think of them. You can
create subsidiary groups of words leading from other groups, which lead in turn
from other groups. You can write your ideas down in any position on the page
you like. Don’t worry about putting them in the right place – just get your
ideas down and explore them.

people never get to grips with mind mapping – the lack of logical structure
just does not suit them. But huge numbers of people who learn the technique
continue to use it, and everyone has their own style. Some people produce
colourful mind maps, others have pictures everywhere. Some mind maps are neat
and use only words, some are a mess with icons and personal symbols.

mind map is very subjective, and the process of creating it is often more
important than the end result. Using someone else’s map just does not work.

sorts of successful business people swear by mind mapping. Among others, the
engineer responsible for Boeing’s technical publications unit keeps notes on
everything he needs to know as a series of mind maps in a spiral bound
notebook. He also has a 40 x 4ft mind map he once produced displayed on his

people use them to help them decide how and when to sack staff, to develop
presentations or proposals, to predict trends, to explore markets and to
develop new products and services.

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