Marketers searching for cutting-edge insights in today’s dynamic marketplace were treated to three subject-matter experts on innovation at an AMA Boston event on November 17th at the NonProfit Center in Boston. After introductions from chapter president Nirmal Parikh and VP of Programming Mary-Katherine McCarey, the night belonged to the innovators, who presented their ideas in three different “voices.”

Voice of the Crowd –  Doug Williams

Doug WilliamsDoug, the Director of Innovation at Spigit, kicked off his session emphasizing the importance of change that creates value. He offered the audience insights on ideation, methods to drive innovation in their companies, and the significance of idea management, because great ideas are the feedstock for every innovative business.

Key Takeaways

  • One thing leads to another and all parts of the process leading to disruption are valid.
  • “Innovation is a journey and you need to pay attention to the changes that are happening in the market.”
  • “Mobilize the wisdom of the crowd to generate innovative ideas for your organization.”
  • Crowdsourcing is a powerful way to activate the community generate new ideas. Doug provided a myriad of diverse examples at Coke, Cigna, NuSkin and Siemens, which all held “time-bound” challenges that mobilized their employees to help develop or refine ideas and then vote on them; Unilever included their agencies too.
    • The goal was manifest in new product ideas, translating phrases from foreign languages, sourcing video from the crowd, and infusing new life into old product.
  • “Smart crowds” can be especially impactful, e.g. target design students or millennials with creative ideas and new viewpoints.

Voice of the Customer –  Mitch Solomon

Mitch SolomonMitch, the President of ThirdSlice Research, informed the audience that research, a key piece to successful innovation, is undergoing disruption from the web and mobile technologies.  While disruption and change can be challenging, it also fuels new opportunities for creativity and speed of execution.

Key Takeways

  • Empathy is part of innovation; design thinking means walking in the other’s shoes.
  • “Market research is a window into the future and will determine how products & services are developed”
  • Ethnography, the scientific description of individual cultures, is being disrupted by new technologies.
  • The research revolution underway includes message and branding, journey mapping, personal development, concept testing, usability testing, unboxing, and user context.
  • The potential of these new research tools can be illustrated by the following case studies:
    • Diabetes case, in which disruptive technology Glimpzit allows researchers to use smartphones to learn about users’ experiences via video, audio and other content much faster and cheaper than traditional methods
    • A “Video Diary” that shows rather than tells how coffee is stored, made, cleaned up etc. – while a less weighty topic than stories from diabetics, it also provides a fun and visual window into the customer’s experience.
  • “Innovations that customers love are the only ones that matter.”

Voice of the Product – Sam Kogan

Sam KoganSam, the President of Gen3 Partners, provided a powerful and humorous counter-point to the traditional voice of the customer by showing and telling how the product itself has a powerful voice. Referencing Steve Jobs’s groundbreaking theory that customers don’t always know what they want, Sam explained how functional analysis can drive product development and innovation, providing several unexpected and fascinating examples

Key Takeaways

  • The Main Parameters of Value (MPV) are the primary indicators of innovation
  • In order to win you must find, adapt, and develop.
  • “For your product to be innovative, it must be market driven and yield economic value to your customers.”
  • “Look under the hood of a product and identify the parts that are valuable to your customer”
  • Listening to the product will reveal new sources of customer value
  • There are four tenets in the importance of the MPV
    1. MPV is pathway to value creation
    2. Customers can’t express what they don’t know
    3. You can turn your product inside out to uncover unexploited functionality
    4. Only then should you search for enabling technologies

AMA Boston crowdA lively Q + A followed, and the speakers stayed afterward for individual conversations with many of the innovation-seekers looking for application of the evening’s lessons to their business. Throughout the evening, many engaged audience members live tweeted using hashtag #innovatetodisrupt – take a look at this exciting social innovation, a Twitter Moment that covers all the action! AMA Boston would like to thank the excellent speakers, the NonProfit Center, and the engaged audience for their interest and participation. We look forward to seeing many of you at one of our two holiday parties, co-sponsored by NEDMA, on December 1st and 8th – check out the details!



  • William Bullard

    William Bullard is a strategic marketer with extensive experience in the Internet, digital marketing, database marketing, content, and many related areas. His career was in direct marketing and wireless communications before he moved into education marketing. He recently founded EdChanges to help institutions leverage strategic marketing in a fast-changing landscape.