Want to design the next great service or product? Upgrade your product, but can't decide what to add or change? Add a new feature to your product, but can't decide how to implement it?
Forget focus groups. Forget endless meetings and brainstorming sessions. Throw an ultra-rapid-design party, and do it in a single day. This approach exploits the wisdom-of-crowds through a process of enforced idea diversity and voting, so no consensus, committee, or even agreement is needed. And it's way more fun.
The Innovation Dinner Party takes 9 people, a pile of diverse "inputs", and has each of the 9 people voting on--and pitching--one another person's ideas to continuously reconfigured groups of 3 people, letting the best ideas rise to the top. The process is a little complicated, but it's derived/modified from an existing rapid-prototyping design. The basic idea looks like this, although there are a million ways to modify it:
Pick 9 people, ideally from different parts of your company and including some customers. (If you don't have a company yet, pick 9 friends--preferably those who don't know each other well) Buy/borrow/find at least 20 "input materials" including books, magazines, a short film, graphic novels, etc.
Assign (randomly) at least 2 "inputs" to each person. Do NOT let them choose (it's important they not be allowed to gravitate toward things they're already comfortable with)
2) Idea Generation
3) Round One begins:
At the end of Round One, each person must select their two favorite ideas from each of the other two members of their group. So if Group One had Fred, Mary, and Sue... then Fred must select his two favorite ideas from the four that Mary pitched, and his two favorites that Sue pitched.
4) Round Two begins:
5) Round Three begins:
- Round One: pitch your own four ideas*
- Round Two: pitch four ideas from your Round One group to your new Round Two group -- two ideas from each of your previous group's other members.*
- Round Three: pitch four ideas from your Round Two group to your new Round Three group, as before.
At the end of Round Three, again each person selects their top two favorite ideas from the ones pitched by the other two members. Record these as a vote. You should now have a total of 108 votes. Choose the top 9 vote-getters (you'll have to be creative about tie-breaking... you could choose more than 9, for example). Give each person a copy of the 9 ideas, and send them back for another round of "inputs." Again, assign each person different materials from the ones they used at the beginning. Give the participants 30 minutes to use their inputs and flesh out a single idea from the nine.
Their one idea can be a modified version of one of the nine, based on their "research." Their one idea could be a mashup of two or more of the nine ideas. It cannot, however, be something completely new. Participants should be prepared to explain how something they got from their inputs helped in some way (not an absolute requirement).
Go Ahead and Choose
Now it's up to you what to do with the ideas. You might choose just one, or take all 9 "winners" with their pitches back to another person or group.