Ideation: Starting with "Y"

Ideation is a talent theme that really defines me.  I have always been an "idea-man" and through the years, my direct reports have served as my de facto sounding board as I dreamed up endless ways to innovate our business.  Take “Zoom Service” for example.  This bright idea combined an image of Nickelodeon’s Jimmy Neutron (and star of a former ride at Universal Studios) with Universal Orlando ticket delivery to guests at area hotels – a play on “room service” that I knew would be a huge hit.  My team still laughs about that one.  It wasn’t until later in my career that I discovered a formula to help tame my uninterrupted imagination and filter my ideas into risks really worth exploring.
The epiphany occurred at a Customer Experience conference hosted by the renowned research firm Forrester.  It was there that I learned a process to distill my futuristic ideas into opportunities that might actually find the light of day.  The formula is detailed in the book Outside In by Forrester researchers Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine.  Put simply, customer experience innovation can occur at the intersection of your brand, your business model and your customers’ unmet needs.  I have come to call this starting with “Y” – as in the three roads that meet to form a Y-intersection.   

The problem with Zoom Service was neither the branding nor the business model – the problem with Zoom Service was with the unmet needs of this equation.  Even ten years ago when I hatched this brilliant scheme, guests staying at area hotels without tickets could either go online to buy them or wait until their Guest Service desk opened in their lobby to make a purchase.  Today it is even easier to get tickets in Orlando through Universal’s official APP.  Guests simply did not need Zoom Service (but I reserve the right to use this amazing name for a future concept).
Since I began starting with “Y”, I have been able to rapidly dismiss countless ideas rolling around in my head and focus my time and energy on the few nuggets of brilliance that emerge through the “Y” filter.  

In addition to starting with "Y" for new product and service enhancements, you can can tweak the recipe to leverage your talents at work and optimize your time in "The Strengths Zone".  In this case, one arm of the "Y" represents the talent you want to leverage (your brand).  The second arm of the "Y" is a need that your company, department or leader has (unmet need).  The final arm of the "Y" is buy-in from your leadership (business model).  Give this a try with one of your significant talents.

People with Ideation as a significant talent theme think outside the box and revel in taking the world as we know it and turning it around so people can view it from a strangely enlightening angle.  New ideas come to them easily and they gain energy from them.  If you work with someone with Ideation as a top theme, here are some "ideas" on how to leverage these talents;  

* People with high Ideation talents are designers at heart.  They love to design sales strategies, marketing strategies, promotional campaigns, guest experience solutions and new products.  Try and always point them in the direction where they have the ability to design.  Give them time to read because others' ideas can become their raw material for new ideas.  

* The Ideation talents can also be leveraged to deepen client relationships.  When a person with Ideation innovates and teaches clients, client loyalty increases.  Include people with Ideation in brainstorming meetings on how to grow business with your important clients.  

* People with Ideation should search out people with Activator talents as these partners can accelerate ideas into practice.  


Dan is currently serving 20 years to life as the Sr. Director of Destination Experiences at Universal Orlando Resort.  He prefers white-water rapids over data lakes and lists Ideation, Futuristic and Positivity amongst his signature talents.    Find him on Twitter @dpddonovan


  1. Great stuff - resonates with me as a career marketing guy and Ideation #1!


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