Much ado about nothing: Obama will be president, again, in 2013

Many of us have watched transfixed as the Republican Party participates in a ‘no holds barred’ fratricide primary season. The heir apparent—Mitt Romney—is a weak front runner, at best, but has taken shots from all the conservative pretenders that have tried to supplant him—first Bachmann, then Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and finally Santorum. However, the smart money remains on Romney to take the nomination because he leads in all the important leading indicators: money, delegates, electability, perceived leadership ability, etc. Intrade, that handy barometer of conventional wisdom, has Romney’s chances of winning at 93%.

Ultimately though, does any of this drama really matter? Will it really affect the outcome of the election in November?

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Ipsos Ideas: Something to Talk About…

Like it or not, people are talking. And texting. And commenting. And tweeting. And blogging. And reading. This page alone is proof of that. And they are probably doing it about you and your brand. But don’t try and silence them. You should really try to listen! Because what they are saying, sharing and reading can change your future. The April issue of Ipsos Ideas kicks off the spring with some conversations on the new reality of research.

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Enhanced employability for those who study overseas

A recent Ipsos study found that most US employers are extremely favorable towards job candidates who have studied overseas, and that most consider degrees from the UK to be equal to or better than those earned in the US.

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Acceptable interventions in the personal behavior of citizens

Michael Bloomberg last week announced that he would commit $220 million to the drive towards increased tobacco control globally. The funds will be directed towards the six facets of WHO’s MPOWER initiative to reduce tobacco use, which include high-level advocacy for enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and raising taxes on tobacco, as well as citizen level interventions to help people reduce their dependency on tobacco.

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What Cartoons Teach Us About Successful Innovation

Pixar represents a company whose innovation process we should study and emulate within the CPG world. We should think about how their process works, and how they align with the way CPG companies operate. I’d argue within CPG we often take “relevant” and try to make it “different,” whereas Pixar takes different and tries to make it relevant. Same principles, different approach, better outcome.

og kicks off, I think the title of this post alone communicates everything you might ever want to know about the type and quality of contribution you can expect from me.

I wanted to start with a broad-based discussion about successful innovation, and more specifically successful innovation processes.It’s a conversation I seem to have with people quite frequently, searching for companies that we might collectively consider to be successful with new product innovation.

Putting the wisdom of the (clearly identified and pre-screened) crowd to work, and factoring in their collective knowledge as well as a sprinkling of my unavoidable and periodic cynicism, my colleagues and I talked about a broad swath of companies – P&G, Unilever, Reckitt, General Mills, all the usual suspects.We threw in a smattering of high tech companies as well – Apple, Google, Microsoft.

During the course of these conversations, we had a difficult time coming to consensus – though many of the companies we discussed are successful innovators, who clearly over time have built a business through innovation, it was difficult to select a specific company that we thought should be emulated. We saw some visionaries, we saw some vultures good at circling around on the next big thing developed by some soon-to-be-wealthy entrepreneur.We saw some who were exceptional at close-in line extensions, others who were better at the mid-range or breakthrough.We saw some deep pockets, we saw some luck.But in none of these situations was there consensus that we’d identified a defined, repeatable, successful process that anyone could emulate.

Everyone’s Gone to the Movies

I was at the movies with my kids this past weekend, and saw a promotion for the upcoming Cars 2 movie from Pixar.My first thought was “Thank goodness, finally a movie I can see with my kids that doesn’t regret that electricity was invented.”Then I realized there is in fact a company whose innovation process I admire and believe should be emulated by every CPG company.

The Pixar Run of Success

There is a company in one of the most difficult businesses on earth who has never had a failure, whose worst-performing product would be considered a raging success by any other company.Take a look at this run of success for Pixar (listed in order of release, including worldwide gross and Metacritic score):

·Toy Story:$362 million, 92

·A Bug’s Life:$363 million, 77

·Toy Story 2:$486 million, 88

·Monsters, Inc.: $529 million, 78 (my personal favorite)

·Finding Nemo:$869 million, 89

·The Incredibles:$636 million, 90

·Cars, $462 million, 73

·Ratatouille, $624 million, 96

·WALL-E:$533 million, 94

·Up:$727 million, 88

·Toy Story 3:$1,064 million, 92

When a movie making $100 million is typically considered a success, and with a Metacritic score of 70 or more in the top of the database, that’s a great run.And it applies equally for new products and line extensions (meaning, uh, sequels).

How Pixar Does It

An article in Wired magazine detailed the process for creating Toy Story 3.If I were to turn that into a process we could use in the CPG world (note that this is not all in this one article, I’m drawing on other things I’ve read as well), I might do it as follows:

  • Build stable teams that know and trust one another
  • Create a vision, and trust the vision (note:the vision can be singular [think Apple] or collective)
  • Set deadlines that enable the pursuit of perfection but never its attainment
  • Create dual evaluative processes
    • Within team – to insure adherence to the vision
    • Across team – to provide context and pressure test
    • Throwing stuff away is not a failure – it’s part of the process
  • Balance the creative and the commercial sides
    • Aiming just for short-term commercial success is soul-less
  • Wash, rinse, repeat
    • Same group of people
    • Same process

Pixar has really done exactly what Ipsos counsels our clients to do.They’ve selected a platform (in this case, a particular type of animated movie), continually ideate around that platform (and I’m willing to bet ideas come from lots of places), and created a culture that fosters that innovation in a constructive way.My guess is that culture is very different than the ones we typically encounter, with people rotating teams as if riding a carousal.It’s more of a collective success, as opposed to the individual success we typically see rewarded.

How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity

Turns out, it’s about people and process.From a Harvard Business Review article, directly from Ed Catmull, President of Pixar (as paraphrased by me):

  • Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover when failures occur.
  • It must be safe to tell the truth.
  • We must constantly challenge all of our assumptions and search for the flaws that could destroy our culture.
  • In complex product development, creativity involves a large number from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems.
  • Leaders sort through a mass of ideas to find the ones that fit into a coherent whole, which is a very difficult task.
  • If we aren’t always a little scared, we’re not doing our jobs.
  • Customers want to see something new every time.
  • We as executives have to resist our natural tendency to avoid or minimize risks.It is this instinct which leads executives to choose to copy successes rather than trying to create something brand new.That’s why you see so many products that are so much alike.It also explains why most products aren’t very good.
  • If you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty, even when it’s uncomfortable, and have the capability to recover when your organization takes a big risk and fails.What’s the key to being able to recover?Talented people!

Note that any place Mr. Catmull used the word movies, creative, script, etc., I removed it or replaced it with a CPG word.Bet you couldn’t tell the difference.He could have been speaking directly to those of us who work in CPG innovation.He also said one other thing, from a different speech, that I wanted to be sure to include: “I don’t like hard rules at all.I think they are all bull@#$%.”A man after my own heart.

An Innovative Company to Admire

On a personal level, I’m glad to now be able to say, when someone asks if there’s a company whose innovation strategy I admire, that innovates across different development horizons equally well, “Yes, it’s Pixar.”Think about how their process works, and how it aligns with how CPG companies operate. I’d argue within CPG we often take “relevant” and try to make it “different,” whereas Pixar takes different and tries to make it relevant.Same principles, different approach, better outcome.

Sources:

http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/series/Pixar.php

http://www.metacritic.com/

http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/2010/inside-pixars-leadership/

http://blogs.bnet.com/harvard/?p=407&tag=col1;post-292

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/05/process_pixar/

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How to Effectively Navigate Current Trends

As we contemplated what 2012 would hold, and explored and considered the coming year’s trends, we recognized that the real value is not that we must be correct in predicting each trend, but rather in considering their implications: what would we do differently, or better, if each trend was true?

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Ipsos Ideas: Mysterious Ways…

Building a successful brand takes skill, time and good research. The March issue of Ipsos Ideas explores the latest trends in research. From mystery shopping to advertising trends, our research experts explore new thinking and opportunities for you to examine.

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Ipsos Ideas: Taking Care of Business…

It’s hard to believe that we’re already one month into 2012. This is going to be a big year – another race for the White House, the London Olympics, the Mayan calendar comes to an end – so let’s roll up our sleeves and get at it! Here’s the February issue of Ipsos Ideas.

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Looking Back on Some Great ‘Ideas’

The start of a new year is always a time to reflect on the year that was and anticipate the year to come. So, let’s begin 2012 with a look back at some of the most popular articles from our Ipsos Ideas newsletter from 2011.

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Welcome to Ipsos Ideas Spotlight, our blog for all things research related

Welcome to 2012. And welcome to Ipsos Ideas Spotlight. This is our blog for all things research and today we begin the first step on a long journey. There is no ultimate destination. Just a series of adventures, discoveries and a great deal of learning and evolving – after all, that is the way with research. So come back again and come back often as the story unfolds and the blog grows and expands. We welcome your feedback, your questions, your suggestions and encourage you to engage in the dialogue and share your perspectives.

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