As more brands infuse lean and agile principles into their innovation process, the need for early and iterative screening of ideas is more critical than ever.

Traditional idea-screening approaches have been designed to do what the name suggests – screen out the weakest ideas so we can focus on the big ones. But by throwing out the “losers,” we could miss significant opportunities. Sometimes there are diamonds in the rough, ideas that need only a different messaging angle or a minor design tweak. And often there are ideas that might not appeal to the general population, but they address a compelling need for a smaller portion of the market who share a targetable mindset. Traditional approaches are not designed to tease out these nuances, and the fixable or niche contenders risk getting lost in the quest for the top ideas.

How can we avoid passing up opportunities provided by less conventional ideas? Read on ... you also can learn more in a case study on this approach at CRC, October 8-10 in Orlando.


Imagine you’re on the insights team of a pet food company, and you have several ideas for a new type of dog treat. Some of the concepts focus on nutrition, others are geared towards a fun experience, and still others have a unique flavor component. You can imagine that pet owners’ interest in these products might vary widely based on the age, size, and breed of dog, among other factors that your team may or may not have considered. 

Traditional approaches are not flexible enough to handle situations where there may be a wide range of potential products ideas, or where there are communication opportunities that target different mindsets or types of people. Further, trying too hard to guess at the “right” groups to survey may lead to respondent screening challenges, or worse, missed opportunities if we guess wrong.

Is there an alternative approach that avoids cumbersome screening while being flexible enough to accommodate a variety of target markets, contexts, and activation options?


In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes two modes of thought: System 1 and System 2. System 1 thinking is fast and instinctual, while System 2 is slower and more analytical. Kahneman, one of the leading modern thinkers in Behavioral Economics, suggests that most decision making happens in the less rational System 1 mode.

When we show respondents a concept and ask them to rate their purchase likelihood on a 5-point scale, we force them into the rational System 2 mindset. When we urge them to evaluate the concept’s uniqueness or fit with the brand, we push them even further down that slow-thinking path. In other words, we’re forcing them to think about our ideas in ways that don’t translate to real-world decision making.

Are there ways we can get respondents to react to our ideas that better translate to real-world decision making?


People are bad at taking complexity into account, which makes it difficult to think about a hypothetical future context.  On top of that, we imagine ourselves to be kinder, more thoughtful, and generally more well-mannered than our actions indicate. Research continues to show that individuals are not good at predicting their own future behavior, but they are much better at anticipating the actions of others.

Consumer insights professionals sometimes incorporate projective techniques into their approach. Can we harness this power for idea screening as well?


To overcome these hurdles, Directions developed CrowdSight™ with a mission to do three things better than existing solutions: be more flexible, provide richer story, and keep respondents in fast thinking mode. We employ a hybrid design to provide analytic rigor while keeping the survey simple and fun. We nudge instinctual reactions via projective framing of questions and include a social platform to spark socialized open-ended feedback. A combination of structured and unstructured data is used to capture themes that inspire marketing, spot fixable opportunities, derive emotion, and reveal archetypes in a way that goes beyond looking at scores alone.

Carley Metsker, VP, Client Service at Directions Research & Patricia Chou, Director, Consumer Insights at Jack in the Box, will illustrate this approach in detail at CRC, October 8-10 in Orlando.


The biggest risk inherent in today’s innovation process is not launching a weak idea, it’s missing an idea with hidden potential, one that could create new value for existing customers, attract new customers, and improve brand perceptions.

In today’s agile world, idea screening has to be fast and flexible. But it also must be revealing. At its best, idea screening accomplishes both speed and insight through a design that goes beyond scores to reveal commercial possibilities.