It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


Innovate Carolina 2011 – This time, in Charlotte! by Nheeda Enriquez
March 5, 2011, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Long time no hear, I know.  But I’m making a (sarcastic) exception in my vow of silence to promote a great event I’ve been working on in Charlotte: Innovate Carolina.  It’s put on by the PDMA Carolinas Chapter (Product Development and Management Association) and promises to be a jam-packed day of Open Innovation conversations with local companies such as SPX, Ingersoll Rand, Enventys, and Electrolux.

Since tax day’s been extended, there’s no excuse for innovators to miss this one!



Charlotte gets a massive dose of design thinking in April by Nheeda Enriquez

photo via sirconferences

I wanted to quickly highlight a handful of design+innovation events in the Queen City before they sneak up on us!  Who knew we were such a hotbed?!



Don’t forget the conclusion! Data-driven decision-making for everyday choices by Nheeda Enriquez
March 23, 2010, 2:22 am
Filed under: consumer behavior, delighters, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

photo via easybloom (click for larger)

At work, I’ve been thinking a lot about how consumers consume data and use it to make everyday decisions.  Now that we live in always-connected, info-lusting world, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that there are examples of it everywhere after I leave the office.  I’ve been using a calorie-counting app on my iPhone to balance food with exercise over the last two weeks.  I’ve played around with Mint.com and TurboTax to make decisions that deal with money.

Over the weekend, I used a sensor-based device called EasyBloom to decide what seeds to plant in my backyard, based on the chemistry of the soil and the amount of sun it gets (clearly, my plants get no sun at night, as the picture will above confirms.)  And while the chart is nice to have for reference, what’s far more important about the data is what I should do about it.  Since I’m no gardener, the insight and the expert recommendations that companies make for me is where the value lives.

I’ve written about data visualization before, and there’s many many beautiful examples of it everywhere.  Then what’s the lesson here?  Sometimes as designers and businessfolks, we forget to finish drawing the conclusion and offer the viewer a point of view by which to process those great charts, graphs, and lines.  Be that an insight, a recommendation, or a call to action, remember to give consumers the ending!



(A small version of) TED is coming to Charlotte! by Nheeda Enriquez

How excited was I when I learned about this?!  Looks like details are still being formed, but a local version of the knowledge phenomenon that is TED will take place at the NC Music Factory in September.  You need to apply to attend, but admission is free if you are one of the chosen.  The RTP version is in just a few days.

Until then, here’s one of my favorites from Dan Pink talking about the topic of his most recent book, Drive, which is all about human motivation.  A wonderful lesson for service designers everywhere.



3 great places to host an ideation session in Charlotte by Nheeda Enriquez

Innovation experts stress the value of conducting ideation sessions offsite, where participants focus on the task at hand and are removed from their day-to-day distractions.  Brainstorming in a unfamiliar, yet relaxed environment really gets those alpha brain waves moving.

The economy undoubtedly presents a cost challenge, and it may seem like a luxury to whisk away your most productive employees for a day.  However, I’ve seen dramatic differences in idea quality when teams downgrade to ideating in an internal conference room.  In light of that, I suggest a few affordable creative spaces in Charlotte, all of which cost far less than a boring hotel ballroom and worth the investment for results.

photo via Magellan/IMR

The Best Buy:  Magellan Idea Center
Located just outside Uptown in the Atherton Lofts, this space was designed with ideation in mind.  (They also use it for focus groups and other types of market research.)  It’s a huge space packed with creative stimuli (magazines, toys, and local art) and has smaller spaces ideal for breakout exercises.  Lots of amenities are included, like coffee, snacks and tech equipment.

The Local: Imaginon
One of the benefits of having a session in a children’s museum is that it encourages your participants to think like kids again.  Frank Blair of PLCMC suggests choosing one of the round rooms, adjacent to the courtyard, to have a session outdoors.  Note that meetings technically have to be open to the public, so it may not be ideal for super-secret topics, but would be a nice place for brainstorming with potential customers.
Runner up “public” space: The Green at Wachovia

The Extra Sensory Experience: Amelie’s French Bakery
Though I haven’t had a workshop here myself, I imagine it would be a lovely place to host one, especially with the tasty treats so close by.  And it would be a neat option for teams who are most creative during non-business hours, since they’re open 24/7.
Runners-up: The galleries at the Light Factory or the studios at Area 15 in NoDa (site of local meetups and barcamps.)

I’d love to hear about spaces that other folks in the area have tried.  Post them in the comments!



Two local innovation events by Nheeda Enriquez

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like, and one of the reasons is that I’ve been working on putting together a great conference I’m about to plug:  Innovate Carolina, which will take place on Saturday, April 10 at the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.  The one day event is jam-packed with some great speakers, including Marshall Brain, the creator of How Stuff Works and the host of the NatGeo show “Factory Floor.”  It’s put together by the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA.)  Non-members can attend for only $99 through the early bird deadline.  The lineup is undergoing a few finishing touches and includes a some local Charlotteans, so check back to see more details on the program.

If you’ve got a few more dollars to invest in a quick workshop on innovation, consider “Building your Innovation Capacity” taught by the McColl School of Business at Queens University on March 17-18.  I don’t know much about it outside the website, but it looks to hit on a broad range of steps in the innovation process.



Charlotte Restaurant Week, revisited by Nheeda Enriquez

logo via Queen's Feast

For some reason, my mindmap over the summer about Charlotte Restaurant Week got lots of hits, so I thought I’d revisit the topic.

The winter version of the event is here once again, and like many Charlotteans, I will put my New Year resolutions on hold to participate.  Why is it so successful?  It’s great for restaurants because it fills empty tables during a slow period.   The scarcity of a $30 deal at a fancy restaurant will sucker any diner into trying something new.

Personally, I like it because it’s another reason to bring people together.  But it also cuts down the number of decisions I have to make when ordering off of a menu.  This reminds me of a little publicity blitz by Menu Engineer (that’s right, an engineer) Gregg Rapp went on last fall.  His interviews with Time and the Today Show reveal all the tricks he teaches restaurants as they redesign their menus to get you to spend more on your meal, including using center justification and taking out dollar $igns.  He also uses fanciful descriptions that make their popular dishes hard to resist.

You don’t often get to read a person’s mind as he/she processes a menu to see if these tactics work.  This Charlotte Loafing blogger shares her mental gymnastics on one of Restaurant Week’s participants, Liberty Gastropub, and it looks like the tasty descriptions work on her.




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