INBOX INSIGHTS, August 30, 2023: Foundations of Innovation, AI-Driven Pumpkin Spice

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Innovation Starts With a Good Foundation

When I worked at the other company a million years ago, the leadership team relied on the staff to help come up with new ideas. They formed an “innovation committee.” The purpose of the committee was to generate new ideas for our research scientists and product owners.

If this sounds familiar, it should be – I wrote about innovation a few weeks ago.

What I didn’t talk about is the foundation of innovation. If you regularly read this newsletter or talk to me for 10 minutes, you know I always fall back on the 5P Framework. Today I’m putting together talks for some upcoming events and outlining guest articles. In each piece of content, the foundation is the 5P Framework.

As a reminder, the 5Ps are Purpose, People, Process, Platform, and Performance.

When I write about the 5P Framework, I start to worry that I’m a one-trick pony. I wonder if I have nothing original to say. I become concerned that my perspective is flat and unhelpful.

And then I recall sitting in on that innovation committee, week after week, without generating any innovative ideas. The problem was that leadership thought that innovation meant something net new. Many times, the group would suggest a twist on an existing problem. Leadership would shoot it down because it wasn’t “innovative”. To them, if it was a riff on something that we already know of, it wasn’t innovative. Because of that thinking, we’d spend (waste) our time trying to come up with new problems to solve. It was the exact wrong approach to innovation.

When I was in graduate school, we studied IDEO. This company was on the cutting edge of innovative solutions. They would observe regular people doing everyday tasks and find areas where they struggled or could improve their process. What always stuck with me is that they would take known problems and find new solutions. They call it “design thinking”. I suggested this research technique to my leadership team and they openly mocked me. Needless to say, their well of ideas dried up pretty quickly after that.

I always go back to the 5P Framework. I’ve been using this framework to talk through complex topics and to find new solutions to the same old problems. I’m trying to stretch and bend the framework to solve all kinds of problems. It is not just for requirements gathering. The 5P Framework is a communication tool. The framework aims to simplify difficult topics into manageable parts and create a complete solution.

Generative AI is a great example of what’s innovative. At its core, generative AI is solving problems that we’ve struggled with for years. The innovations are the solutions, not that we’re finding new problems to solve.

Innovation doesn’t have to be big and flashy to be effective. Small, thoughtful changes can have a big impact.

Are you innovating? Reply to this email to tell me about it, or come join the conversation in our Free Slack Group, Analytics for Marketers.

– Katie Robbert, CEO

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Data Diaries: Interesting Data We Found

This week, it’s pumpkin spice season! Well, specifically, it’s the peak of search inquiries about all things pumpkin spice. However, we’re going to do things slightly differently this year, rather than just our usual roundup. That’s a good place to start though; using our basket of common pumpkin spice-related search terms, let’s see what the actuals and forecast look like for 2023:

Pumpkin spice search volume

What we can observe, especially with the dark trend line, is that after the first year of the pandemic, all things pumpkin spice have been ascendant. Searches have increased year over year.

Now, that’s helpful to understand; certainly, if we were a merchant interested in selling pumpkin spice-related merchandise, this would help us understand the timing of when to push our marketing hardest. But suppose we wanted to understand things at a more granular level? Maybe we were in charge of SEO for the merchant – what keyword anomalies could we spot in the data?

There are innumerable ways to do anomaly detection in a dataset, and trying them all could be pointless. What’s a data-driven marketer to do? Ask an AI, of course. We took our dataset and loaded it into ChatGPT’s Advanced Data Analysis module (formerly Code Interpreter) and asked it for its suggestions:

ChatGPT Output

While I instinctively leaned towards ARIMA-based methods, it was nice to see the machinery make similar recommendations. I then asked it to draft the code, modified it to work the way I wanted it to, and this is what it came up with:

ARIMA-based anomaly detection

What’s interesting here is the dramatic jump in basic informational queries like “what is psl”. For content marketers looking for an advantage, this might be one way to identify popular but underserved topics in any domain, then produce content for that topic rapidly.

Our generative AI tools are good at more than just cranking out content. With the more sophisticated data analysis capabilities built into many of them, they can be powerful allies for analytics as well.

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