Monday, June 12, 2017

The Front End of Innovation Blog Has a New Home & a New Name!

We wanted to let you know that the Front End of Innovation Blog, now called "Edge of Innovation", has moved to a new home with a new name here!

But, don’t worry – The Edge of Innovation Blog is still the same innovative, educational, and thought-provoking blog it has always been, just in a fresh, new space on our company’s website.

We are excited for this change and hope to continue to keep our writers and readers happy.

To check out the new and improved blog, click here!

Happy reading!

The FEI Team


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Understanding the End User with Journey Mapping

By: Doug Birkholz, Senior Industrial Designer, bb7

One of the most valuable tools in the design thinking process is journey mapping. It is an exploratory tool that provides ideas for further development. A journey map displays the experience – ideal or actual – a user has with a product or service. It forces the innovation team to experience the product or service from the perspective of the end user and build empathy for the user. The user’s journey with a product or service is graphically represented and allows the design team to focus on the positive (high) and negative (low) points of that experience. These points contain the key to value-added innovation. The map can even help to mitigate risk in a project by providing a deeper understanding of the customer experience.

The journey map needs to be executed early in the product development process. The ideal place to start is before or during ideation, or as part of a design research program. Performing the journey map exercise early in the development process allows the innovation team to generate ideas based on well-defined actual or hypothetical circumstances.

The map can be rudimentary or have a high degree of graphic character, depending on the circumstances and expectations of the team or client. Each map contains two axes: time is represented on the horizontal axis and the customer’s emotional state (termed emotional variability) forms the vertical axis. Each step the customer makes is described by four parameters: time, sequence, responsible party and emotional response.


Journey mapping starts by researching the end user(s) to gain raw information about their experience with the product or service in question. This may require spending time with a stakeholder who is doing “the job.” The depth of research depends on many factors, including timing and budget. In many cases, the sample size is small but the information gathered is deep.

Imagine you are studying "do-it-yourselfers" who build their own decks. Information about many end user groups can quickly be found in online articles. The web is rich with information about DIY projects, reviews and experiences. You can easily perform a search query for “DIY deck building blog” and receive a wide range of results. These yield many examples of DIYer’s process, experience (positive and negative), and how they solved problems. In addition to highlighting projects, they can include reviews and links to other DIYers. There is also wealth of published information about DIYers containing related information (e.g. demographics). Information gleaned from these sources can aid the design team in creating a journey map.

Ethnography is a popular technique used to research and understand a group of people, and is often the preferred methodology for design research. Ethnographic research typically includes observing, interviewing and documenting participants’ behavior and experience.

Note: Observation is key. It is very important to observe a participant’s actions and behavior with the product or service rather than relying only on interviews. Often there are discrepancies between what users say they do and what they actually do.

When done correctly, observational research provides insight into “unarticulated needs.” This form of user research gives the team invaluable firsthand knowledge about the targeted group.

The length of time captured on the map depends on what the end user is doing. Someone picking up convenience store items like milk or bread might take 30 minutes versus buying property or earning a college degree, which may need to be plotted over months and years. In the case of the deck builders, it might take a few weeks to months. The user being observed and the tasks they are doing will determine the time interval covered by the map. Process time can also vary between different users performing the same activities.

The quality of data gathered is important in determining the quality of journey map. Diligent documentation (photographs, video, and notes) helps prevent important observations from being overlooked or forgotten. The observations may yield common themes, outliers, moments of truth, high points and pain points of the user’s experience with the device or service. It is important to record details about all aspects of a user’s journey.

A researcher must, at the very least, document the user’s activity, a description of their behavior, their relative emotional state (positive or negative) and the elapsed time at each step of the process.


The journey map encompasses the user’s scope of tasks. The initial hypothetical map is revised based on knowledge gained from the ethnographic surveys. The first plot (step) on the graph will be identified from the initial research. It is typically an action that is identified as the start of the journey. 
In the DIY deck example, the journey didn’t begin at the lumber yard or when the first boards were measured and cut. The journey was triggered by the wish for a new deck after noting the existing deck had finally succumbed to the elements.

The number of steps (plots) depends on the user’s process revealed by the research. Some users may have more steps in their process than others. For example, in making coffee, different users will have different processes depending on the type of machine, coffee, quantity, etc.

Tasks are placed on the timeline (horizontal scale) while the emotional variability (vertical scale) indicates how the end user was feeling upon completing each step.

Insightful journey maps include details that highlight customer behavior which is unique or interesting.

Activities that are emotional highs or lows must be featured with a short description of what happened. A decisive moment as to how to operate a product, a user handling a product in an unintended way, or a customer achieving a specific goal using a product, all are plot points on a map which are worthy of short elaboration. The elaboration is brief, with a few comments near each task to highlight an important finding and how it impacted the task being performed.


Once the steps of the process have been plotted, connect the steps with a line to represent the journey. The low points on the customer’s journey are considered pain points. These pain points are insights that are incredibly valuable to the team conducting design research.

The pain points represent problems a design can solve; they provide the fuel for future innovation and have the potential to eventually become the areas for profitable growth and innovation. However, don’t ignore the high points; these may represent parts of the journey the user can’t do without, or perhaps the reasons the user is selecting the product in the first place.

Identification of high and low points is a way for the organization to gain insight on how the end user works with the product or service it provides. The more pain points identified, the better. This is where having a good strategy, well-structured portfolio and commitment to change come into play. Easy fixes that have a high ROI should be the first priority of innovation.


Well, sometimes.

Sometimes journey maps result in an interesting finding: it’s not the activities that are painful, but rather the amount of time it takes to complete the process.

For example, I developed a journey map that highlighted a process that was supposed to take only five minutes. However, the support activities before and after the five-minute activity amounted to 45 minutes of other tasks, including cleaning. That said, compared to the journey maps of competitors’ products, a 50-minute process was still a major improvement. Be aware of time, and make sure you analyze this important factor within the right context.


Remember: journey maps do not prove anything; they are tools, not market research. They are best used to help design teams come up with ideas for further investigation and prototyping. The tools themselves do not replace analysis, so be careful to not announce a quick victory from their results. Analysis takes patience, thoughtfulness, and reflection on what has been learned.


Journey mapping is a way to understand the user and user research in a visual way. It allows design teams to reflect on the customer experience in multiple dimensions, notice trends among multiple customers who have been part of the process, and to help create the ideal journey based on pain points discovered on the way. Among the tools in design thinking, journey mapping launches a design team into user-centered design. The journey map is a way for the design team to build a strong empathetic connection with the end user/customer experiencing the product or service. In the process, the end user becomes a real person, with hopes and challenges, rather than an abstract demographic.

For an organization, techniques like journey mapping help bring it new knowledge. It opens the first phase of the knowledge funnel. It can be ambiguous, because the mystery has not been explored yet. An organization needs to be both intuitive and analytical with the portfolio of ideas derived from journey mapping in order to sustain business and advance the company. Journey mapping is one tool to explore the next level of ideas to build and prototype.

About the Author: Doug Birkholz has been an industrial designer for over 20 years developing user driven products for medical, industrial and consumer products. Working in both corporate and consulting design offices, Doug has over 25 patents and several design awards including two gold IDEA awards from the Industrial Designers Society of America. He has recently earned a graduate certificate in Innovation and Design Thinking from the University of Virginia-Darden School of Business. Besides product design, Doug is also an illustrator. He collaborated with two rocket scientists on the book, The Rocket Company published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Doug resides in Madison, Wisconsin where he is currently Senior Industrial Designer at bb7.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Simple Process Leads to a Complex Outcome

By: Alexander Kornelsen

This post was originally published on

Large organisations are under fire to be more agile and opportunistic in their approach to innovation, adaptation, and disruption. FEI Europe 2017 helps to systematically tackle the innovation process - from ideation through execution - to ensure innovation teams are capturing immense opportunities. In our interview series in partnership with FEI Europe 2017, we show the best practices from global innovation leaders. 

At PepsiCo, beverages are developed in a new approach for breakthrough innovation. Everybody wants innovation to be simple, but whilst the end result may be very simple, getting there is anything but. At FEI Europe, Luke Mansfield will share new thinking on capability, process, tools and techniques and new ways to collaborate; and how orchestrating a combination of all of these enabled us to launch multiple new global brands.  

As partner of FEI Europe, Venture Idea had the opportunity to ask Luke Mansfield, Vice President, Innovation, Global Beverage Group at PepsiCo, some questions beforehand.

PepsiCo's current premium innovations 'Lemon Lemon' and IZZE 

Venture Idea: Hello Luke, please introduce yourself and tell us about your job at PepsiCo

Mansfield: I’m Luke and I lead Innovation at PepsiCo. In essence my team is focused on developing $Bn beverages platforms of tomorrow. 

Venture Idea: What are your current tasks and innovation challenges?

Mansfield: Our Innovation challenge is similar to everyone’s. That’s because we focus on the consumer. Whilst industries have their idiosyncrasies the consumer is the same. PepsiCo is an extraordinary company, but that can sometimes make Innovation harder. We’re incredibly efficient which means any Innovation by definition introduces inefficiencies. This is why we focus on premium Innovations. Great examples of this are our new platforms LifeWTR, IZZE and ‘Lemon Lemon’. Consumer tastes are changing fast and something which in the 90’s would have taken a decade to travel can now be a global trend within a year. We’ve had to learn to become a lot more nimble. 

Venture Idea: Tell us about your talk: You are going to present a new approach for “simpler" innovation. How does your innovation process look like?

Mansfield: It’s interesting that this is how you interpreted the title. It’s actually the opposite. In my experience, a simple process leads to a complex outcome. Only solving real business issues gets to simple outcomes. To launch a new product around the world our whole business needed to evolve. From supply chain to procurement, design, R&D and marketing: Everyone needed to find a new way to work. When I say simple, I mean simple for the consumer, not for us. We don’t compromise on the consumer experience which means a lot of complexity behind the scenes.

Venture Idea: Since the conference’s topic is “adapt & disrupt”. How do you manage to be disruptive while sticking to the company’s core business?

Mansfield: That’s a great question and it differs a lot by industry. During my time at Samsung it wasn’t a worry. We knew todays products would not be the same in 5 years so disruption is the DNA. At PepsiCo we have brands and products that people have enjoyed for 100 years. That doesn’t go away, and it’s a powerful base to innovate from. I’d like to flip the question though and look at another of our new launches, ‘Lemon Lemon’. It began life as a delicious natural forward lemonade under 7Up in Europe. Our ambition grew as we developed it and we decided 'Lemon Lemon' would be a lot more. It’s now a standalone new brand in the USA. The difference between disruption and something incremental is often defined more by our ambition for than anything intrinsic within the product.  

"Embrace resources, scale and influence as a competitive advantage" 

Venture Idea: What do you think will change in the near future when it comes to innovation?

Mansfield: I can tell you what I think should change. I hear a lot about how corporations must be more like entrepreneurs and I agree. On how we do this I often disagree. An average entrepreneur is resource constrained, focused and driven. They use resources judiciously and invest a lot of themselves into their work. Many large companies see scale as an impediment to innovation but I see it differently. If we gave that entrepreneur access to our resources, imagine what they would do. At PepsiCo that’s how we look at it. Embrace resources, scale and influence as a competitive advantage. 

A question I would ask anyone setting out on an Innovation journey is ‘do you love your products and brands enough?’ because if you don’t; why should anyone else? Also, how will you have the fortitude to push through the barriers you’ll inevitably face if it’s not passion that drives you? We love our brands and we love our products. I can’t countenance a future where they’re not part of the conversation. That’s what drives us to evolve and re-invent them for the next generation. 

Venture Idea: Thank you a lot for your insights and see you at the conference!

This interview is part of an interview series with speakers from the FEI Europe conference. The Front End Innovation Europe takes place in London as a part of the London Tech Week, from June 13 - 15. The conference covers the full innovation spectrum: Ideation, trends, culture, leadership, and strategy. Hear stories of success and failure from leading innovators from across the globe. Join to discuss how to successfully integrate innovation into business. As a collective, participants will break through traditional barriers and move towards actionable innovation. 

For more information or get your ticket and save 20% by using the VIP Code FEIEU17VENI, click here:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tokyo Smoke: Cannabis Spoken at FEI

Tokyo Smoke
Alan Gertner
An FEI 17 Keynote

Alan’s calling is coffee, clothing, and cannabis.

Alan “first consumed cannabis as a teenager.” They chose a convenient store parking not, which was not, in retrospect, a positive experience.

So many already consume.
After working at Google, Alan reached all of his goals by the age of 30. “I wasn’t challenging myself.” He ended up in Ghana and found his way to a voodoo ceremony.

His next project was himself, trying to figure out his core passions and motivations. On a big spreadsheet, he scored how meaningful his life was. 

He discovered two simple things: (1) likes big challenges and (2) likes being part of a community.

On the way to college, Alan partook of cannabis with his father and a friend, which “changed my perception of this substance.”

“I had always thought about cannabis as a subculture, not a part of normal life,” he adds. 133 million Americans have tried cannabis. ¼ of Americans consume cannabis on a regular basis.

The legal marijuana industry is growing above 25% each year, which means there is both “broad support and massive room for innovation.”

90% of cannabis consumers do not make cannabis use their primary identity.

“Which makes me think of coffee,” he says, “and what all Starbucks did in the second wave of coffee with its own language and choices. Now, we are in the third wave.” Pot will go the same way. Right now, “cannabis prices are plummeting.” To rise in value, you need “brands, stories, and a nomenclature.”

Now you see normalized, accessible way to consume, such as vapor pens, body lotions, mints, sodas, more.

The idea of Tokyo Smoke was “to being some of the elegance of Japanese branding to the cannabis space.” The idea was to try and build something new, something approachable.

Cannabis, even for casual users, is more of a lifestyle—so there needs to be lifestyle brands. The goal is to build a high awareness business that normalizes cannabis.

“We are on the precipice of a major social change.” There are existing consumers and they are just looking for a brand.

“I’m excited about seeing this revolution happen and be a part of it,” he says.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an insight, innovation, and strategy firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Creative Headspace: What Innovation and Music Have in Common.

Creative Headspace: An FEI 17 Keynote
Panos Panay, Berklee College of Music

“Four stories of a record store now fit into our pockets,” the talk begins. 

“Today you can make music without playing music. You can make music without knowing music. You can make music even if you are not human.”

The way we discover and consume music is changing. Predicative analytics and diagnostic tools will be able to read our moods “and provide the right soundtrack for that moment in your life,” adds Panay.

Panos coaches musicians to be entrepreneurial at Berklee. As part of this post, he reached out to the at Stanford. Here’s what he learned, “the processes of innovation and music making are fundamentally the same, both are acts of creation.”

There are mindsets—“what we call head spaces”—that are applicable to their own career journeys.

The first one: Listening. You have to learn to listen deeply. This is the most important instinct to cultivate.

Second: Collaboration. Music is the process that brings different people and forces together into something larger than the individuals, a synthesis.

Third: Timing. Timing is critical in both music and for corporate innovation.

Fourth: Imitating. How can we draw inspiration from the past? A deep understanding of what preceded you is a great asset.

Fifth: Fusing. Fusing two things from different worlds and applying them together creates novelty.

Sixth: Captivating. This is a key aspect of storytelling. “Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone is a lot like Freddy Mercury at Live Aid.” Captivating an audience cuts through the mental chatter. Audience and performer become one in this alchemical process.

Seventh: Failing. You learn from failure. The Beatles spent two years in Hamburg, which was a failure, other than giving them time to practice and refine their act. The experience was formative and instructive. The process leads to good outcomes. No one wins without in depth failure and practice.

Eight: Reinventing. How many Bob Dylans has the world known? The folk singer. The irreverent rocker. The confessional singer. Religious artist. The crooner. Constant reinvention is key for keeping things fresh.

So, can a bunch of musicians innovate outside of music? “About a year ago we kicked off a project that tracks rights and ownership rights of music using these methods.” If there is a singular way to collect where music is played, it changes the way musicians make money.

Working with IDEO, the school of music created the Open Music Summer Lab. One work stream worked on capturing good information, good data. A second work stream focused on consumer experiences based on that data.

“We took a team that had very diverse skill sets and ran them through a design thinking process. In three weeks they came up with 12 concepts.” Also, they learned how their skills are transferable, allowing them to pivot intelligently.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an insight, innovation, and strategy firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Soon Yu's Great Confession: Fail to Innovate

Fail to Innovate: An FEI 17 Keynote
Soon Yu

This talk spoke of the emotional toll of being a professional innovator. The candor and transparency of the speaker made it one of the most engaging keynotes in a stellar year of speakers. Essentially, when we innovate things, we too are being remade. These are tips to handle this process mindfully. 
Most of you “have experienced failure trying to innovate.” You all “fail well.”

Failure is just part of what innovators do. We share each others pain. The question is how you take failure and reframe it to be a competitive advantage.

Here are the Dirty Secrets about failure.

Dirty secret number one: “I am a much bigger failure than a success.” The stats: Yu has had four "career restarts." Five businesses dissolved. Six layoffs conducted. 30+ failed product launches. 300 Credit Score achieved two times.

Failure teaches you more than success, makes you more mature, builds empathy, and is a badge of courage, yet…

Dirty secret number two: “all the above is crap.” It’s crap because “most failure is wasted.”

In fact, "failure sucks," Yu says with pain in his voice. “Let’s face it, you get disappointed, defensive, resentful, stigmatized, and embarrassed. Failure is a tough, tough place to be.” For these reasons, “we suck at failing.”

Here are the fives stages of disappointment:
1.    Denial
2.    Anger
3.    Bargaining
4.    Depression
5.    Acceptance

“We rationalize it wasn’t really our mistake to begin with,” he adds, but it may be. “We may be playing the blame game.” We blame others, circumstances, data, and, only if we are honest, ourselves.

“I got fired because I didn’t do my job right,” he adds, “that’s the simple truth. I laid people off and was tuned out, desensitized. I was stubborn. Put money into dumb things.” Soon confessed these failures to keep the pride and romance out of failure.

How do you unlock the value of failure?

How can you get smarter, innovate yourself, and use failure as a tool to be more compelling?

“We have to get customer feedback and push past denial and gain outside perspectives,” Yu says.

Soon was told in a 360 that he was “self centered, superficial, and a political animal.” He tried to dismiss the feedback, but the outside perspective helped him get smarter once he faced the facts.

Yu recommends both Drive By-style feedback and going in-depth annually.

The payoff for doing this feedback includes:
1.    Stop repeating same mistakes
2.    Intimate knowledge of virtues and vices
3.    Knowledge of where you stand with others

So, what do you do with this feedback?

Evolve. We, as humans, "are living prototypes." We are “always in the process of getting feedback and adapting. We want to know what works and what doesn’t. More important, we will be less defensive and more curious.”

What do you do as a prototype?
1.    Experiment with new skills and behaviors
2.    Close your gaps
3.    Innovate your strengths
4.    Take stock and reapply

What is the payoff?
1.    Strengthen virtues, check vices
2.    Gain new skills and learning
3.    Provides courage, agility, and resilience

So, how can failure make you more compelling?

The power of a good story and stronger storytelling. Turn “your presentation into a Hero’s Journey that requires help from the work community. Speak to challenges and obstacles that demonstrates courage and change.”

Payoff of using your own failures as part of a presentation:
1.    Gain sympathy and empathy
2.    Demonstrates humility with courage
3.    Builds credibility from learning

“Recovery from an epic episode is a story people will love.”

Most of the world is frightened of failure, “but the best innovators know how to mine failure for gold.”

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an insight, innovation, and strategy firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit

Monday, May 22, 2017

Science Behind Empathy and Storytelling

Science Behind Empathy and Storytelling
By Tim Urmston, Founder and CEO, SEEK Company

Connecting Brands with people they serve through insights, story, ideas, and strategy—this is what supercharges a project.

Tim begins with a question. He shows a persona of a busy mom who needs more time according to the data.

Now, Tim changes the insight, but rooting the Mom inside a story. Shoulders are turned down, her tone is sharp, and she has a look of contempt.

This is a very different place from which to innovate. “It’s an emotional job, versus an intellectual exercise.” The mom in the scene has a child who requires insulin, a reminder to herself that she is broken, everything feels broken to her.

Her name is Emily. She doesn’t actually need more time, she needs something to improve the experience of giving insulin.

The story carries the weight of the empathy. The data alone doesn’t carry to weight of emotion and create to will to solve the problem.

Once a person told Tim this insight,” If I trust a person, my needs get met.” He adds “the same is true for a brand.”

There are two types of empathy: “Cognitive and Contagious.” When we cringe or sigh “we experience contagious empathy.”

Thinking verses feeling. Storytelling and the evolved brain.

Tim gives the group a brief tour of neurology and biology and their implications for empathy: Lizard brain, limbic brain, new brain, pre frontal cortex, and then the full body. Three nervous systems are outlines: head (central nervous system), heart (autonomic nervous system), and gut (enteric nervous system).

“If you are watching a story and you see someone sneak in someone’s house, you connect and feel the emotions.” Data about break-ins doesn’t motivate, but stories do. Data can persuade people but not inspire them to act. Stories inspire action.

Using stories to rewrite a brand story can make a meaningful difference in sales. Always used this method with its wildly successful Like a Girl campaign, which has more than 100 million hits on and rising market share.

“Emotions connect and create resonance,” claims Tim. We are hardwired for empathy and storytelling.

Good stories also unearth age-old tensions we all share. If an organization can penetrate the emotions underneath why people sue their products, they can harness the power of storytelling for advertising, marketing strategy, and new product development.

Evil may be the factors that block empathy. Inhabiting empathy may make us all better people. 

“You are in a pivotal position to change the products and services we use. Be storytellers. If you want to have a seat at the table, if you want to make a difference not only at your company but in the world then learn to create connection with strong storytelling,” he ends.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an insight, innovation, and strategy firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Finding Treasure

The glue that holds everything together at conferences like these is an engaging, entertaining and inspirational emcee. We were fortunate to have Mike Maddock from MaddockDouglas in that role this year. He did a great job of setting up the speakers and connecting all the dots. He also provided great insights  

We know that the next big innovation in any respective industry will come from another industry. So we need to be willing and open to learning from, at times, the most unexpected of teachers. Yesterday, we learned from a former gang leader. Today we learned from a musician. 

Panos Panay is the founder and managing director of Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship. And yes, he's a musician. King Tone shared what we can learn about innovation from the street. Panos shared what business innovators can learn from musicians. This should be interesting. Panos even admitted that he questioned, how do you coach entrepreneurialism to creative people? He determined that the very instincts that make them creative are applicable to their career journeys. He defined the following head spaces that contribute to success in innovation.

First, learn how to listen. Design thinking calls it observing.

You must collaborate. Music naturally brings people together. The ability to bring different concepts together and synthesize them, creates something completely new. This is key to innovation.

Good sense of timing is important just as timing is critical in music.

Imitation is ok. Innovation can be influenced by what has been done before. It is critical to have a deep understanding of what preceded you.

Bringing two completely different things together creates something completely new and unique.

Great musicians have the ability to get up on stage and captivate an audience. Be captivating as you present your ideas and solutions.

Failure is an important part of the learning process. We don’t always know about all the failures but for every success there are oodles of failures. Don't give up. As professionals we are so paralyzed by the fear of getting it wrong. The successful ones keep going.

We shouldn’t think of innovation as a series of ands. Artists are always influenced by their surroundings. Think of it as a continuous process that never ends. Adapting, adjusting, making new. Always becoming.

I found a great deal of treasure at FEI.

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