New product development (NPD) is essential to companies and it is an area where our research shows that stories can be a tool to boost creativity. The Storytelling Workshop is an effective but little-known approach used by marketing and innovation practitioners in NPD. Drawing upon their own research, and practical experience working with companies, the authors detail the factors to consider in designing and running storytelling workshops to generate breakthrough product ideas.
“Once upon a time…”
We all remember how stories had the power to delight us as children. Stories touched our emotions, sparked our imagination, and enabled us to make sense of the world, be it “good” or “evil”. In our business lives, stories are somewhat neglected, however, even though they can move us in ways that spreadsheets and powerpoints never will. Too often, stories are perceived to be not useful, invalid, or even not a serious-enough tool for managers.
New product development (NPD) is essential to companies and it is an area where our research shows that stories can be a tool to boost creativity. Innovation is a resource-intensive process but much of the value of NPD investment is lost because more than 75% of new products fail. In some industries, such as food and beverages, the figure is even over 90%. Many studies have shown that the activities that take place at the beginning of new product development are crucial to the success of new products and services. However, this stage where the ideas for new products are generated is perceived as so difficult to manage that it has consequently become known as the fuzzy front-end. The challenge for NPD teams is to design breakthrough products, which offer unique features and provide solutions to customers’ real problems. This requires the generation of new customer insights. So, at the front-end, NPD teams need productive tools for generating insights. Storytelling workshops are an effective but little-known approach.
In this article, we explain how storytelling workshops can be used in NPD. Drawing upon our own research, and practical experience working with companies, we detail the factors to consider in designing and running storytelling workshops to generate breakthrough product ideas.
About the Authors
Evy Sakellariou is Senior Lecturer and MSc Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Kingston University London. Prior to join academia, she held senior managerial roles in marketing and innovation at Unilever UK and Unilever Greece and Cyprus. Her research interests lie in the areas of innovation management and creative leadership.
Keith Goffin is Adjunct Professor at Stockholm School of Economics and Emeritus Professor of Innovation and New Product Development at Cranfield School of Management. Before joining academia, he worked for fourteen years in the medical electronics industry, in management roles and new product development. His research has been widely published and covers innovation strategy and generating customer insights.
Agnes Mariakaki is a Consumer Psychologist, managing MindSearch, a consumer insights company based in Greece. She has developed a series of innovative methodologies exploring the needs and motivations of consumers beyond words. Art, Lego, Improvement theater, Storytelling, Online role play become tools for innovation and new horizons.