Writing Samples

Agency Promotional Postcard

The Design Team at Innovation Focus was looking to promote our research capabilities to current members of our database and potential new clients.  We thought a neat approach to this was create a postcard with a bold image to get the recipient’s attention, then inform them of our ethnographic research capabilities.  Unfortunately, the piece was never produced.

Click on each image to enlarge.  Names have been removed from this piece.

Postcard Front
Postcard Front
Postcard Back
Postcard Back

Magic Hat – Under The Cap Contest

Magic Hat Brewing Company adds captions to the underside of their bottle caps, like “Life Is Sweet When It’s Complete” and “Don’t Cause A Stink When You Drink.”  Back in 2005, they ran a contest where fans could enter their sayings for a chance to “get under their cap.”  One of my sayings “She’s A Gem At 2 AM” won the contest.  It was later made a little less risque.  For my efforts, I won a Magic Hat t-shirt, which is pictured below.

Click on each image to enlarge.

Magic Hat Caption
Magic Hat Winning Shirt
Magic Hat Cap Logo

Musselman’s Healthy Picks Case Study

You can download a PDF version of this here: Musselman’s Healthy Picks Case Study

Reconnecting With A Classic
Knouse Foods Updates Apple Sauce To Meet The Needs Of Boomers

Knouse Foods, owners of the Musselman’s brand, is one of the world’s largest apple processors.

The challenge.
In January 2008, Knouse Foods approached Innovation Focus to develop a portfolio of products for their new product pipeline that included products targeted specifically at the Boomer generation. The challenge was how to update their classic products to reconnect with Boomers and meet their changing needs.

The solution.
We conducted in-home interviews with Boomers who ate apple sauce on a regular basis, and coupled them with secondary research on the Boomer demographic. We found that Boomers were looking for more unique and exotic flavors from their foods to satisfy their sophisticating palate. Our research also showed that fortified products are popular among Boomers because of growing concerns over their health as they age.

These 2 opportunity areas, along with 7 others, fueled our ideation session. Participants generated ways to use classic Knouse products to give the Boomers exciting and interesting taste options and help them be healthier through fortification.

The result.
Musselman’s Healthy Picks marries two concepts from our ideation session – Exotic Apple Sauce (#1 below) and Total Select Apple Sauce (#2 below) – into one Boomer-friendly option. Making its debut on shelves in March 2009, Healthy Picks is fortified with fiber, vitamin c, calcium and antioxidants. The fortifications are paired with exotic flavors such as Key Lime Cupuacu, Blueberry Pomegranate and Raspberry Acai to give Boomers a stimulating taste along with the supplements they need delivered through the classic food of apple sauce.

#1 Musselman"s Exotic Apple Sauce - click for a hi-res version
#1 Musselman's Exotic Apple Sauce - click for a hi-res version
#2 Musselman"s Total Select Apple Sauce - click for a hi-res version
#2 Musselman's Total Select Apple Sauce - click for a hi-res version

PlayByHeart One-Pager

This is a one-page sell sheet written for PlayByHeart, a musical ensemble for hire for events. I was with the owner at an event where part of the ensemble performed. Afterward, he received a lot of inquiries about the business and its capabilities. Unfortunately, his business cards were in the process of being printed and he had nothing to hand out to his potential customers. I offered to write this sheet as a leave behind and a way to promote the company and it’s services

You can download a PDF version of this, including graphical elements, here: PlayByHeart One-Pager

Enhancing Your Events Through Music

PlayByHeart is the premier agency to fill your musical needs for your next event.  We are a collection of highly skilled, experienced musicians dedicated to making your event extra special through the music we play.  Whether you’re looking for musicians for your wedding, formal reception, funeral, concert, party, social night, assembly, informal get together or business event, we will treat your event as our own and strive to make it the best it possibly can be.

When you book an event with us, we will listen to your musical goals.  We will bring together the right ensemble and compose a custom arrangement for what you have in mind.  Our collection includes brass, woodwind, string, piano, percussion and voice musicians.  We’re confident we’ll find just the right mix to make your event one your guests will never forget.

We also host interactive musical events where you and your guests become our ensemble.  We will teach you the basics of playing.  Experience is not a pre-requisite for our events.  By the end of the night, you and your guests will be honorary members of PlayByHeart and be making beautiful music right along our side.  It’s the perfect, unique activity for business events, social club meetings, or informal get-togethers with friends.

The next time you’re looking for special music to put a memorable touch on any event, turn to PlayByHeart.  We’ll put on our expertise and years of experience to work for you to make your event the best it possibly can be through our music.


January 2009 Innovative Issues – Newsletter

Below is a draft copy of the January 2009 edition of Innovative Issues – Innovation Focus’s monthly newsletter.

You can download a PDF version of this here: January 2009 Innovative Issues

Welcome 2009! If you’re like us, you’re excited about the possibilities and hope the New Year brings. We understand it’s hard to keep this message going throughout the year, and even now, only 27 days into 2009. We feel we’re off on the right foot with a historical event – the inauguration of our 44th President – and the inspiring words spoken on this momentous occasion. We hope that this edition of Innovation Issues finds your refreshed and reinvigorated by the New Year.

In This Issue

  • New Addition To The Innovation Focus Family
  • Don’t Allow Incremental Improvement To Eliminate The Big Bang – GET HUBRIS
  • Article Links
  • Speeches and Conferences
  • Quote of the Month
  • Innovative Exercise of the Month

New Addition To The Innovation Focus Family
Matt Hall and his wife Allison welcomed their first child into the world. Aiden Thomas Hall was born on January 11, 2009, weighing in at 7 lbs 6 oz and measuring 19.5 inches. Both mom and dad are doing well and couldn’t be happier. Please join us in celebrating with the family.

Don’t Allow Incremental Improvement To Eliminate The Big Bang – GET HUBRIS
By: Christopher W. Miller, Ph.D. – Founder & CEO – Innovation Focus

Chris Miller argues that companies with lofty goals are often the ones who perform near the top of their class decade after decade. Companies that do this have hubris, and are not afraid to go after the big, game changing innovation. Chris lists nine ways that companies can practice setting and striving for this type of lofty goal.

To read Chris’s article, please visit http://www.innovationfocus.com/GetHubris.asp

Article Links
Here are some links we recommend:

  • Finding Money for Innovation: Develop Those People Skills – This Knowledge @ Wharton article highlights a recent panel titled “Street-Smart Innovation to Align Emerging Technology and Business” held at the University of Pennsylvania. The panel says that, in light of shrinking R&D budgets and economic hardship, researchers should develop people skills to help them fight for the budgets they have. They also highlight potential opportunity areas for revenue and keeping retaining current researchers by keeping them happy.
  • Why You Need to Get Really Close to Your Customers in a Recession – This CustomerThink article states that deeply understanding consumers and their needs now, in hard times, and creating products that meet those needs will enhance consumer loyalty. By listening to the consumer and earning their loyalty now, future growth and revenue can be created – even in a recession.
  • How Creative Thinking Can Help In The Downturn – Edward de Bono weighs on the economic hardship, stating that creative thinking can help. He states that problems should be looked at as opportunities, that designing your future is key, and that creative thinking in hard times can be done alone and not in the traditional group setting.
  • 10 Reasons to Design a Better Corporate Culture – The top 10 lessons learned from the best practitioners of corporate culture are outlined in this Harvard Business School Working Knowledge article. The professors state that recognizing that strong, adaptive cultures can foster innovation, productivity, and a sense of ownership among employees and customers is key to having a strong strategic advantage.
  • P&G Spreads Idea Net – This Cincinnati Enquirer article highlights Connect and Develop, P&G’s open innovation effort. It outlines the strategy, investment and goals of the project, as well as future plans.
  • How World of Warcraft Promotes Innovation – Wait, what’s this World of Warcraft doing in my innovation? This BusinessWeek article gives examples from the video game senior managers can use to challenge employees to learn and think creatively on their own. These examples can be used to improve employee performance and advancement through experiences and not training programs.

Speeches and Conferences
Sustainable Package Design
January 27-28, 2009 | Sheraton Sand Key | Clearwater Beach, FL

Chris Miller will be presenting at this year’s Sustainable Package Design conference on behalf of Innovation Focus and LIFEbytes OnlineTM on Wednesday, January 28th.

Growth Strategies Seminar X – Save The Date!
Our 10th Annual Growth Strategies Seminar (GSS) will take place on Thursday, March 26th at The Barn in Lancaster, PA. This year’s theme will be: Innovation Creativity. Agenda, speakers, and more specific information to follow. To register, please contact Kevin Ringer at 717-394-2500 or email kringer@innovationfocus.com. To view the official flier, please visit: http://www.innovationfocus.com/GSSX-SaveTheDate.asp.

Quote of the Month
“The primary purpose of leadership is to give your customers the ability to do what they can’t do, but would have wanted to do if only they knew they could have done it.” -Daniel Burrus – Futurist

What is your reaction to this quote? How does this month’s quote affect you? Email your comments and reactions to us and your response may be published in next month’s issue.

Innovative Exercise of the Month
Think of a problem or task you have that needs to be solved. Write it down on the top of a piece of paper. Now, think of your favorite song. It can be your favorite song of all-time or your favorite song right now. If it’s available, play it. Think about why this song is your favorite. Is it the lyrics? The music? The memories you’ve associated with it? Write these things down as you think of them on your piece of paper. Let your mind wander while you’re thinking of these things. Write down where your mind wanders to. Once the song is over, go back and reread your task. Then read over what you wrote down. What kind of ideas do these thoughts inspire? How can these ideas help you solve your problem?

Did this exercise help you solve your task? Or did you just like looking at your problem differently? Let us know! Email your thoughts or success stories to us. We’d love to hear them!

January 2008 Innovative Issues – Newsletter

Below is a draft version of the January 2008 edition of Innovative Issues – Innovation Focus’s monthly newsletter.

You can download a PDF version of this here: January 2008 Innovative Issues

After a whirlwind of a holiday season, we’re all back at it! Isn’t it strange to think that the New Year was less than a month ago – it feels like forever! We hope Innovative Issues finds you refreshed from the few days off we all enjoyed, and trust that 2008 is shaping up to be a very successful year for you.

In This Issue

  • New Faces At Innovation Focus
  • What Makes A Project Go Well – A Survey
  • Hunting for Hunting Grounds: You’re Personal Journey – More Scouting
  • Article Links
  • Quote of the Month
  • Innovative Exercise of the Month

New Faces At Innovation Focus
The New Year brings two new faces to the Innovation Focus family. We’ll get their pictures up on the website soon. For now, please read below about the two newest members of our team.

Steve Geist
Coming to us by way of Gamestop, Steve’s role with Innovation Focus is to produce our projects by helping with internal technography, travel, supply coordination and design among many other activities. He will also be helping with project management. Steve is an extremely skilled artist, having earned a BFA in Illustration from the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. We’re all looking forward to our self-portraits once he’s finished with them.

Matt Hall
Matt is the newest face around our offices. He is also our newest video guru, having several years of video production experience, including time at the Pennsylvania Cable Network. Now retired from his days in amateur sketch comedy, Matt will be a project manager here, as well as helping with technography and assisting with LIFEbytes online. So far, Matt has been instrumental in organizing our morning coffee runs.

What Makes A Project Go Well – A Survey
By Andrew Zenyuch

Andrew asked the Innovation Focus staff: What makes a project go well? The response he got surprised him.

To read Andrew’s article, please click here.

Hunting for Hunting Grounds: You’re Personal Journey – More Scouting
By Christopher W. Miller, Ph.D.

Chris decided to give more time for scouting because, frankly, there’s a lot of areas to sample out there.

To get a detailed outline of the business version of this process, send us a note and we will send you a draft of Chapter 2 – Hunting for Hunting Grounds from the PDMA ToolBook I.

Article Links
Here are some links we recommend:

  • Ignite Innovation Buzz – This article was originally written by our Chris Miller and Gary Graziano of High Concrete Structures, Inc., in July of 2004. It is featured in Lancaster Business 2 Business Magazine’s Collector’s Issue of Essential Classics from 2000-2007 this month. You may recognize the last part from a separate article late last year. The Editor of Lancaster Business to Business includes this note before the article: Talk about shelf life! When Miller & Graziano created this analysis, firms were just beginning to preoccupy themselves with managing innovation. Now three and a half years after we published their July 2004 tactics, it’s astonishing how relevant every part remains.
  • Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike – This New York Times article talks about the “curse of knowledge,” which means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. In order to properly innovate, it argues that those innovators caught in this “curse” must bring things back to basics and down from their level of expertise. This paradigm shift is where innovation lives. (log in required)
  • 10 Worst Innovation Mistakes In A Recession – Bruce Nussbaum, assistant managing editor for BusinessWeek, responsible for coverage of design and innovation, weighs in on the 10 worst mistakes a CEO could make in the now or soon-to-happen recession.
  • The Accidental Innovator – The Economist profiles Evan Williams, the founder of Blogger and Twitter. Evan had 3 insights that lead him to where he is today: First that genuinely new ideas are, well, accidentally stumbled upon rather than sought out; second, that new ideas are by definition hard to explain to others, because words can express only what is already known; and third, that good ideas seem obvious in retrospect.
  • Napkin PC Concept Utilizes Multi-Touch E-Paper Display and RF Technology – CES wrapped up on January 10th with a ton of cool, new and innovative ideas coming out of it. Numerous blog and news sites have been covering the products and happenings. One of our favorite working concepts coming out of CES is the Napkin PC. We love it because we can finally get all of our brilliant ideas from our bar napkins onto our PCs without worrying about spilling beer all over them.

Quote of the Month
“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out. Every mind is a room packed with archaic furniture. Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.”- Dee Hock – Founder and former CEO – Visa

What is your reaction to this quote? How does this month’s quote affect you? Email your comments and reactions to us and your response may be published in next month’s issue.

Innovative Exercise of the Month
Think of a task or a problem that needs to be solved. Now grab the magazine that’s closest to your desk – it doesn’t matter what it is. Open it up and skim the headlines, articles, ads and pictures. What do they say? What are they trying to do? What ideas do you get from them? How could these ideas help you solve your problem? If you come up dry, grab your favorite magazine and repeat. If you’re still having trouble after that, grab a magazine as far removed from your task as possible. The more irreverent, the better.

Did this exercise help you solve your task? Or did you just like looking at your problem creatively? Let us know! Click here to email your thoughts or success stories to us. We’d love to hear them!

July 2007 Innovative Issues – Newsletter

Below is a draft copy of the July 2007 edition of Innovative Issues – Innovation Focus’s monthly newsletter.

You can download a PDF version of this here: July 2007 Innovative Issues

Did we miss a memo? Since when did all this “Back To School” stuff stop popping up? Doesn’t that signal the unofficial end of summer? Last we checked, we were sitting on the beach, staring at a beautiful sunset with a cold drink in our hands. And by that we mean staring at our screensavers and imagining we were there. Oh well, at least it was fun while it lasted. Enjoy this month’s Innovative Issues, and weep not for the pending closing of this beautiful season.

In This Issue

  • Our Chapter In The New PDMA Toolbook 3!!!
  • 2007 CPSI Conference Recap
  • Issues In Innovation Series – Part 4 of 7
  • Article Links
  • Speeches and Conferences
  • Quote of the Month
  • Innovative Exercise of the Month

Our Chapter In The New PDMA Toolbook 3!!!
We are delighted and extremely excited to announce that Anne Orban will be published in the upcoming PDMA Toolbook 3! Anne’s chapter, The Slingshot: A Group Process for Generating Breakthrough Ideas gives a detailed look at our Slingshot process, how it was started, the types of results it generates and why it’s different and more useful than its component processes.


We are pleased to offer you, the Innovative Issues faithful, a copy of the pre-press version of the article. All you have to do is click here to send an email requesting a copy of the article, and we’ll send it to you in PDF format.

To send Anne a note of congratulations, click here.

To pre-order the PDMA Toolbook 3 (due out in October 2007), click here.

2007 CPSI Conference Recap
By Bree Gillespie

Bree Gillespie attended and taught at the Creative Education Foundation’s (CEI) 2007 Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) Conference. This is Bree’s 7th year attending the conference. In her article, she gives an overview of the philosophy and background of the conference as well as the Creative Education Foundation.

To read Bree’s article, please click here.

Issues In Innovation Series – Part 4 of 7
By Anne Orban, M.Ed., NPDP

The fourth question in this series is:
What is the new product development process on the horizon? (Cooper’s basics seem to be out of favor).

To read Anne’s response, click here.

We encourage you to to read Anne’s answer and send your own responses and reactions to us here.

Article Links
Here are some links we recommend:

  • The Business Benefits of Going Green – This review gives you the highlights of the book The Clean Tech Revolution, such as different, successful business models (Toyota), predictions for the future, key revenue sources for the green trend, and how important the conservation of water will be.
  • What’s In A Name? – You’ve heard of Google and Apple, right? Now how about the Verizon G’zOne? It’s the first cell phone that is completely waterproof and meets military standards for water, dust and shock resistance. It’s a great example of a neat product crippled by a horrible name. This article talks about the importance of a good name. Innovation Focus can help with the first step in finding a great name for a product or service through our Naming Process. For more information or for a free workbook, send a message here.
  • 12 Most Influential Gadgets And Gizmos – Time Magazine goes back through recent history to find the top 12 gadgets and gizmos that influences the direction technology went, such as the first VHS recorder and the first camera phone. Yes, the iPhone did make the list.
  • Trendwatching – “(Still) Made Here” – Trendwatching is a great website that we highly recommend. This month they take a look at the trend of (Still) Made Here. They define this as: “(STILL) MADE HERE encompasses new and enduring manufacturers and purveyors of the local. In a world that is seemingly ruled by globalization, mass production and ‘cheapest of the cheapest’, a growing number of consumers are seeking out the local, and thereby the authentic, the storied, the eco-friendly and the obscure.”
  • Experience Is the Product – This article talks about the importance of the consumer experience of a using product and how it’s the only thing that consumers care about. It shows examples of companies that do this well and tells us the useful information we can glean from them.
  • 50 Best Websites 2007 – Time Magazine – Time Magazine ranks their 50 best websites for the year. Some of these we’ve never heard of before, but were really impressed when we checked them out. Sadly, www.innovationfocus.com did not make the list.

Speeches and Conferences
The Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM)
Chris Miller will be speaking for The Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM) at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business Administration. The event Chris will be speaking at, ISBM New Offering Realization Consortium Tools, Techniques and Process for Getting Good Ideas, and Moving them Along at the Front End of B2B Innovation, is in Pittsburgh, PA on Thursday, September 20th.

PDMA International Conference – Innovation Connection 2007 – October 1-2 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Orlando, Florida. Innovation Focus’s information for the conference to follow in the coming months. For more information on the conference, click here. To register, click here.

Quote of the Month
“Wealth flows directly from innovation… not optimization… wealth is not gained by perfecting the known.” – Kevin Kelly, Founding Executive Editor of Wired Magazine.

What is your reaction to this quote? How does this month’s quote affect you? Email your comments and reactions to us and your response may be published in next month’s issue.

Innovative Exercise of the Month
Think of a problem or task you have that needs to be solved. Now think of a foreign country. It can be a country you’ve been to, one you’d like to go to, one you’ve heard about recently or even one picked from a map! Put yourself in the shoes (or clogs) of a local of that country. Spend a few minutes researching the culture of your chosen country. If it helps, adopt the country’s accent for a few minutes. Now look at your task through the eyes of the your country’s natives. How would they solve your problem?

Did this exercise help you solve your task? Or did you just like looking at your problem creatively? Let us know! Click here to email your thoughts or success stories to us. We’d love to hear them!

What is Innovation? A Survey – Article

You can download a PDF version of this here: What is Innovation? A Survey

What is Innovation? A Survey

By: Andrew Zenyuch, Innovative Issues Editor

The term innovation has really taken on a life of its own today. It’s pretty much everywhere you look – from almost every TV ad and company website to water-cooler talk and even presidential debate topics. Our founder, Chris Miller often jokes that innovation should have its own number on the stock exchange. It’s really turned into a hot topic not only in business, but in today’s culture itself.

With the term innovation being thrown around like it’s going out of style, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of what the term actually means. Many people who use the term regularly do not take the time to define what innovation means to them. They seem content just to say they’re innovative.

So what does innovation actually mean?

Merriam-Webster Online defines it as: “the introduction of something new” or “a new idea, method, or device.”

Wikipedia defines innovation as: “The term innovation may refer to both radical and incremental changes in thinking, in things, in processes or in services (Mckeown, 2008) Invention that gets out in to the world is innovation.”

Both are great starting definitions, but it feels like innovation is more then what is stated above. If it was that simple, why not just call it “new” and “changed”? Why throw the whole business world into a flurry? Why dedicate so much company time and energy to something as simple as “change” or “new”?

To find out, I surveyed the Innovation Focus staff. We’ve been in the innovation business for over 20 years, so I thought I might find a useful definition. Each person had a unique response from their perspective, and embellished on the simple definitions stated above:

“Innovation is the actualization of creative thought. In innovation we make the idea real. Creativity has a three step process… deep preparation and focus in area of expertise, exploration of irrelevant material and finally the connection back to the area of expertise… Innovation has a three step process as well: Discovery of the idea, Development of the idea, and finally Commercialization or implementation.”

“Innovation is the marriage of invention and creativity to produce practical applications.”

“Meaningful differentiation”

“In the broadest sense of the term, innovation means doing something (tangible or intangible) differently that results in improvements (tangible or intangible) that can be measured.” Also, “finding new and more meaningful ways to add/extract value that drops to the bottom line.”

“Innovation means positive change.”

“Innovation to me is connecting the dots differently than anyone else has thought to connect them. By doing so, different attributes, qualities or perspectives come into view that create opportunities that either did not exist before or were never visible. Seeing these opportunities and developing them faster and better than the competition allows the innovator to own the space and garner more of that opportunity.”

“Innovation to me can mean anything from the slightest most subtle improvement to a complete paradigm shift. When applied to the mundane processes of everyday life it can be nothing more than trying a new route to work or building a new Excel Macro (sorry my mind is always on systems). Sometimes things are better left alone and innovation comes from looking at it in a new way. Innovation lives and breathes and is always possible. The challenge comes in recognizing when we have found a truly new idea that can, with a little nurturing, fundamentally change the way we live and breathe.”

“Innovation is applied creativity, but so is invention. Perhaps the best way to answer “what is innovation?” is through the comparison of invention and innovation. The Patent and Trademark office defines patentability (invention) as something that is “novel”, “non-obvious” and “adequately described” (reduced to practice). Within this definition, an invention does not have to possess commercial value. For me, value is what defines innovation. The best definition for innovation I have come across is offered by the Chief Learning Officer of Goldman Sacs: “Innovation is fresh thinking that creates value”. This implies both a benefit and commercial potential. An innovation can be new to the world, new to the company, a line extension, product improvement, a re-positioning, and even a cost reduction. It should create value by: disrupting a market or industry and creating an entirely new one, creating a new position in the market, creating a new benefit, offering a new formula, create a new and useful technology, offer a way to enter a new market, provide a new way to sell or merchandize a product.”

As the variety of responses demonstrates, we believe innovation means more than something new or a change. To us, innovation means meaningful, differentiated change brought about by creativity that can be both small and game-changing.

Now I’d like to ask you, the Innovative Issues readers, what innovation means to you? Does your perception of innovation differ from ours? Is it the same? How so? You’re around innovation on a daily basis. Has this changed your view of it?

What Makes A Project Go Well – A Survey – Article

You can download a PDF version of this article here: What Makes A Project Go Well – A Survey

What Makes A Project Go Well – A Survey

By: Andrew Zenyuch, Innovative Issues Editor

Like most of your jobs, the business world of Innovation Focus is comprised of projects – ethnography projects, ideation projects, naming projects, sales projects, internal marketing projects, buying-the-owner-lunch projects…the list goes on and on. Sure, your projects aren’t exactly like the ones we do, but a project is a project; they all contain similar elements, constraints and challenges that we all encounter.

Sometimes those projects go well, and sometimes they bomb catastrophically. It’s usually very easy to identify why a project doesn’t go well. Not enough attention is paid to the aspects of a project that made it go off without a hitch.

I asked my fellow co-workers to call upon their experience in project work and answer this question: What makes a project go well? I wondered if the different experience levels in the wide range of projects we do would influence their responses.

Much to my surprise, the answers were pretty consistent. Clear objectives, good communication among team members and clients, and planning the project well are the clear-cut winners in what Innovation Focus thinks makes a project go well.

The responses are listed below. As you can see, the common theme is very much apparent:

“When there is a well-planned timeline and all team members stick to it.”

“The most important aspect of any project is communication. Yes, you will need all the right people, resources, and knowledge to see the project through to completion, but all of those assets cannot be brought together without great communication. For me, this always meant frequent, open communication with my clients and co-workers. Even small details, such as choosing a font for the final deliverable, might be important to some clients. It’s best to always let them know what stage of the process is being worked on, and give them ample opportunity to be involved and a part of the process. …it’s definitely a philosophy/way of doing business that has worked well for me in the past.”

“Clear project objectives and plan. Good clients – cooperative, involved, good attitudes, get back to you in a timely manner and are clear about what they want at the beginning of the project. They are also flexible and willing to respond to new opportunities. Organizational support for the project; organizational honesty, clear on what they can and can not do. Many will say they want a disruptive innovation project but really they only want incremental improvement.”

“Clear objectives supported by strong communication to ensure united team effort.”

“Projects are successful when there is enthusiasm and alignment about the objectives and methodology. Clear and constant communication among the team members with the team leader reinforcing roles and responsibilities is paramount. Even more important, though, is the power of doing meaningful work with a team that is inspired. Ya gotta believe in what you are doing to do it well.”

“For me, it’s planning and communication. Planning and communication between the project manager, the captain and the client gives a clear expectation of what the expected outcome and deliverables of the project will be to all the parties involved in the project. That knowledge when taken to me as a producer in a timely fashion provides the easiest production of the final deliverables as well as the ability to see potential problems that might occur down the road, and the time to address those issues. With adequate planning and communication between all parties any project can go well.”

“Clear goals, timing, and communication established with clients and the internal team make a project more likely to succeed. I find that when the internal team, in particular, are clear about objectives and timeframes, we are more likely to have cooperative and collaborative teamwork. For most projects, teamwork is primary even if most of the “team” is in a supportive or consultative role. For the client, we are more likely to achieve the end goals if we communicate steps along the way to minimize surprise, adjust the design when necessary, and check to see that the client is satisfied with the progress.”

“From my experience, the key to project success is preparation, preparation, preparation! Rarely will a project go from project kick-off to project close exactly as planned, without any bumps in the road. This can be very stressful for the team, especially in the field where resources are limited and tend to be unfamiliar. Being prepared for the unexpected will make all of the difference, and will ensure that the project goes well!”

“One of the key requirements for an innovation initiative to make it to market (go well) is the right team leadership. Innovation initiatives are different than the normal business projects and require different ways of leading, working, and implementing. Innovation is fundamentally about creating new knowledge and new ways of acting on it. This requires team leadership that can organize, mobilize, and franchise a project at all stages and across all functions and levels in an organization. It is absolutely essential to have team leadership that knows how to work with both the personal and organizational dynamics of innovation.”

“Collaboration is the key to making a project go well. When a client and a researcher work together through processes of planning, conducting fieldwork, analysis, report writing and dissemination, I realize that I have not only buy-in but ownership by the client of the research process. The synergy of working together with your client produces a satisfying experience and makes the project go well.”

As you can see, while they’re not the only factors, clear objectives, good communication among team members and clients, and high-quality planning are definitely key elements in what we feel make a project go well.

And now I throw the question to you, the faithful readers of Innovative Issues. What makes a project go well? Do you agree with us? Did we miss something? Is your experience with your projects unique and require something that isn’t listed here?

I want to hear from you. I will gather responses for the next month or so, and post a follow up article to this with those responses. If you’d like to participate, please send your response here.