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Olga Keating
17 May 2020

Mini-hackathon or how to generate viable
ideas in 2 hours

Organised as a Marketing Agility Community event, this mini-hackathon was built around the Fastuna Agile consumer research tool. It was a collaboration between Pam Ashby an Agile Marketer, Communications Consultant and a Certified Coach, Nadine Rochester, B2B Marketing Director, Digital Project Leader and a Certified Scrum Master, Rachel Chapman, a Marketing consultant, specialising in agile marketing, marketing strategy and customer journey analytics, and Community sponsors Ascentae, who provided technology and support.

There was a guest presentation by Ekaterina Kharitonova, a Global media and measurement manager at Bayer.

In a nutshell
Believe it or not, you can actually hold a quick idea generation session online then test the ideas with consumers online. All of that in just a few hours and you will end up with real viable options that the business can put into development.

Time pressure for a fast turnaround (within reason, of course) can instead play in your favour by helping people tap into a stronger creative streak, because they are more likely to be focused on goals.

You can use the iterative principles of agile not only at the validation stage of idea development but also during the very early conception stages. Literally, as soon as you can put your idea into a clear sentence or two you can obtain early feedback and adjust and respond according to that.

This is why we discussed three principles of agile during our session: fast, iterative and focused.
This virtual event took place on the 28th of April 2020, welcoming a wide range of people with an interest in agile marketing from around the world and multiple disciplines. Our goal was to run a successful mini-hackathon completely online.

The process and the flow were smooth and we started off by sharing pictures of our window views, drinks and snacks on a Nureva Span canvas, with some people having children climbing all over them. Immediately putting everyone in a much more relaxed and open state of comradery and understanding. Then we discussed principles of agile and agile research in particular and Ekaterina gave us an example of their hackathon experience at Bayer. After which we brainstormed in groups, came up with ideas and tested them with consumers.
Principles of agile research:

Which is better, bike or car? The answer is neither, because it is the wrong question. The right way of thinking about it would be that it depends on your needs. If you want to enjoy the views and get healthy a bike is better for you and if you just want to get from A to B then the car is better for you. Need is the driving force behind what we do and what methods we choose to do it.

As well as choosing the right 'vehicle' for your needs you need to choose the right way to research. Agile research is designed to support agile processes in the organisation. Such as fail fast or learn early / rapid learning and fast decision cycles / value through focused problem solving.

The way those principles work within agile research is:

  • In order to learn fast you should be able to receive feedback in just a few hours and not have to wait weeks.

  • To use feedback for rapid learning cycles we need an iterative approach; since you have your feedback fast you can adjust accordingly and move to the next stage of development.

  • And maximum value is delivered through focused solutions where a business goal leads to clear objectives which, in turn, leads to which decisions need to be made to achieve these objectives and then clear decision criteria and focused research solutions. All questions you address in your research should be feeding into the problem solving and into the decisions which are going to be made based on the research insights. This also means doing away with nice to have questions. Our favourite principle in fact is nice to have must die! This way maximum value comes from the research and no learning is wasted.
Bayer case study brilliantly showcases the agile research principles
"Agile is not only the privilege of startups but also large corporations like ours (Bayer)"

That was the message from Ekaterina, who told us about Bayer undergoing a massive digital transformation and how her and her global media and measurement team supported it.

She told us about holding a full on face to face 3 day hackathon where they validated their ideas during that event using AGILE RESEARCH.

The I-Days initiative was launched to involve people from all over the organisation in idea generation. It was a 3 day event which started with inspirational talks from interesting thought leaders and companies and finished with an involved yet fun workshop. What was interesting about this workshop is that teams did not only consist of company employees but they also invited people from startups and various industry leaders to ensure an exposure to different ways of thinking, making it easier for everyone to tap into their inner creativity. A true agile approach! Also teams were made to pitch their ideas to different stakeholders, obtaining feedback from them and learning wider points of view).

After ideas were generated and sharpened Fastuna ran the tests for Bayer with 700 consumers overnight using our Product Idea solution.

What Katya pointed out was that the internal business opinion did not correlate with that of the consumers, so it is essential to run things by the very people you are trying to be useful for. The results of consumer tests were passed on to the teams to be taken into development.
At the Marketing Agility Community Brainstorming session:

In under 40 minutes of brainstorming 4 teams generated over 20 ideas. And 4 of the most promising ones were selected for consumer validation.

The task was to come up with ideas for a myriad of unmet needs now that everyone has been forced into their kitchens. :)
We gave teams the selection criteria. The ideas had to be innovative, believable for consumers and viable for the business. They also had to appeal to the general public to indicate that they can drive value at scale.

To sharpen up their ideas and make them presentable to consumers, teams used our Concept Idea Template. Thanks to the tech from Ascentae they could instantly add images, text and drawings to the group board by using a QR code, and then discuss them, collaborate and build on ideas.
Result of consumer feedback:

Straight after the event we tested those ideas on the Fastuna platform and had 400 responses for all 4 ideas within 2 hours.

It was fascinating that all ideas were positively perceived by consumers and each of them had great potential at scale. Great mixed discipline teams created great ideas, where motivation and excitement was maintained throughout the session. So no surprise they all scored rather well, with some scoring lower on relevance indicating a more specific target market.
Jump to results
It wasn't just a fun exercise but also a means to generate viable business ideas. And this is the main value of this exercise. Whether you are a large business or a startup you can take a couple of hours and hone in on your customer needs, develop ideas to address them and monetise pretty quickly.

"What I really liked about this was that the reports were broken down, you can gauge each section… strong feedback very early about what's good about an idea…" Pam Ashby

"An observation from a project manager / scrum master viewpoint. What I like about the way this is presented is something very easy to share with all the members of the team who might not be marketing specialists and alike. So you could be very open with it rather than information being filtered by someone else to them. They can actually see the raw comments and that then will encourage further new thinking because everyone will see and pick out something different from it. I just like the way it's presented as opposed to a 100 slide power point presentation, which nobody, even the writers usually read all the way through. As I say, that was the first think that strike me is that this is something that I will be more than willing to share with the team and I am sure that team, no matter what it is will have no problem absorbing and understanding it." Gidon Cohen

"Thank you very much, I personally really like the way its visualised, I think it's a really powerful way to visualise to your team these kinds of early signals. I think it's really nice!" Mitch Platt

In conclusion:

Take agile principles and apply them to all of the stages of idea creation including idea generation and testing.

It is absolutely critical to test as you can very quickly get feedback from your customers at an extremely early stage. It will save a lot of time and money. You will have a crystalised and focused idea to take on straightaway. No need to wait and marinade in ideas. It can be as easy as just taking 40 minutes and that already would be enough to get immediate feedback and direction.
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