Alternative Ideation Methods for Banks

In our recent white paper, How Banks Can Leverage a Walletless World, we discussed how new entrants in the financial industry, including start-ups and tech giants, are threatening banks by offering services in areas in which clients are being underserved.

In this blog, we will discuss how banks can go beyond a simple brainstorming session and utilize other ideation methods to create and deliver better services and products, taking into account the consumers’ deeper needs.

Provide Tailored Solutions to Consumers

Banks usually have complex corporate hierarchies, which may prevent these institutions from responding to consumers’ needs quickly. On top of this, bureaucratic internal processes and teams working in silos rather than cross-functionally only make the problem worse.

So how can these institutions ensure that teams use the right tools to develop a better overall customer experience and work towards a common goal? Below, we will dissect a few ideation methods that can foster creativity and team-building in banks, helping them become more customer-centric.

But First… The Brief

The first step prior to any innovation challenge is putting together a project brief. Many projects fail before they even start because there is no brief – or a poorly crafted one. Banks are fast-paced organizations with multiple projects happening simultaneously, so having a brief to guide the team involved with the innovation challenge is key.

The brief cannot be too narrow or too broad. It must be succinct, yet thorough. It must contain an overview of the project, including background, purpose (goals and ambitions) and scope. The primary target of the project must be outlined, as well as relevant stakeholders. All this information will help the team understand which resources are needed to execute the project – including people who should be recruited – and how this exercise will create value for both the company, and its stakeholders.

There is one caveat, though: it is not always possible to predict what will emerge from ideation exercises, so a reframing of the initial question can be necessary.

The Right People

The challenge outlined in the brief document will help define the group of individuals with complementary skills that would add value to the project and that should be part of the team. Based on the different expertise, roles and responsibilities should be assigned to each of the team members.

Beyond the Brainstorm: Alternative Ideation Methods

1. Mind Mapping

The rationale behind this exercise is to make connections between data points and ideas. A Mind Map allows one to observe emerging themes and motivations.

This technique consists of writing an idea – either a word or a phrase – at the center of a piece of paper or board. After this, participants should write whatever comes to their mind on the same paper and connect each idea with other data points through curves or lines. The map can be expanded according to the need, and once there is an intricate web of relationships, the participants should start looking for patterns and relationships between the ideas.

An important rule of engagement for this exercise is not having many filters: participants just have to jot down the ideas that come to their mind without the fear of being judged or criticized. Mind Mapping can be a useful tool to develop new ideas for financial products as it provides the opportunity to explore consumer’s deeper needs and to seize untapped opportunities.

2. Storyboarding

Storyboarding is a technique to depict the key elements of an experience or idea by using text and visuals. In a bank, it can be a very effective way to pitch ideas internally and gather feedback.

A storyboard shows a narrative frame by frame, starting with the introduction of a situation and where it takes place. The next step is to describe a solution (or solutions) for the situation. It ends by summarizing the outcomes. The number of frames really depends on the complexity of the problem solved and the extension of solutions offered.

A helpful way to approach storyboarding is to think in terms of key events, i.e. utilizing the “POEMS” framework, an acronym for “People,” “Objects,” “Environment,” “Messages,” and “Services.” This will help to list the actions and key components of the narrative.

Once the participants jot down these ideas, they can start by writing a sentence or paragraph for each frame, as descriptive as possible. This will help them think about the most appropriate images to draw for each frame. Although the illustrations can also be substituted by images found on the internet, it is advisable to start by doing rough sketches. What will be evaluated is not the quality of the drawing, but rather the consistency of the ideas. It is key to ensure that important steps of the problem’s solution were not missed.

3. Gamestorming

The term “Gamestorming” is the junction of two words: brainstorming and gamification. A common approach to this method is asking participants to sit in two circles, with a larger circle surrounding the smaller one. While participants in one of the circles brainstorm, those in the other just observe, listen, and take notes. This assures that every participant has the opportunity to engage in the session. Gamestorming can be used in financial institutions to generate new ideas and find conclusions for virtually any problem that a team may be facing.

4. Brainwriting

Brainwriting is an extremely valuable technique for ideating new ideas for products and services at banks because it can be combined with other ideation methods. In this session, participants are asked to write their ideas on a piece of paper or sticky note and place them on top of the notes that the facilitator put on a wall or whiteboard. After that, they are asked to rotate, building on other people’s ideas. Another way to do this exercise is asking the participants to sit in a circle and pass the papers from one to another.

5. Worst idea

This simple technique consists of asking participants to come up with a list of bad or stupid ideas. Once they are done, participants are asked to turn these bad ideas into good ones, either by considering the opposite or by finding something useful in them.

This exercise alleviates the burden of having to present “smart” ideas straight away and allows people to have fun. It also sheds light on new opportunities that banks can pursue by helping team members get to the core of consumers’ underlying motivations.

6. Bodystorming

Although many consumers have been moving from brick and mortar branches to online banking, branches will still exist for a while, especially for premium clients who are willing to pay for them. Therefore, providing a seamless experience at the branch-level is key. Using role-playing techniques can be very useful to address service gaps in branches and help banks design the right sales choreography to create an ideal customer experience.

Bodystorming starts with a group of people developing a plot, without worrying about a very detailed script. Participants should act offhand to understand consumer’s pain points. After defining the plot, the stage is set and the role each member of the team will play is decided. Then, the performance is executed – preferably to people outside of the group of participants – to elicit feedback and refine.

Note: Since the idea of this exercise is to depict a real-life situation, an extremely humorous representation should often be avoided.

7. Reverse Brainstorming

This method of ideation begins with defining the challenge and then reversing it. The next step would be to ask the participants to come up with ideas that solve the reversed challenge. Lastly, they should flip the ideas to resolve the original challenge. For example, “How to increase the adoption rate of the bank’s mobile app,” would become: “how to decrease the adoption rate of the bank’s mobile app.” One solution for the flipped challenge could be “not developing a marketing plan for the app’s launch.” Therefore, the solution to the original challenge could be “advertising on Google and Facebook.”

To thrive in the competitive and disruptive financial industry, banks will have to embrace change and understand that consumer’s needs are key to stay relevant in this business. To come up with innovative products or services to meet clients’ expectations, banks should incentivize their teams to leverage many ideation tools, not just traditional brainstorming.