Goodwill hunting

Shaking things up and letting go of the past can be difficult for a mature company. But that's exactly what Coleman did when it realized that outdoor camping -- along with its market share -- was on the decline.

To help identify areas of growth, the company turned to consultancy Innovation Focus, which, in an effort to promote new ideas, ironically suggested Coleman look to the past for inspiration.

A myriad of techniques were used to jar staid thinking and generate new ideas, says Cara Woodland, Innovation Focus's vice president of customer insights. The consultancy guided Coleman -- long identified with camping and ruggedness -- to new market areas using a process it calls "hunting for hunting grounds," which is based on Native American lore.

In 1880, a Sioux chief called his tribe together. The buffalo and antelope are disappearing, the story begins. We must find new hunting grounds....

Like the Sioux chief, Coleman's then president and CEO, Bill Phillips, rallied his tribe to gather as much information as possible in a limited time.

The group used a range of activities -- including interviews with industry experts, ethnographic research, journaling and even collaborating with children -- to learn what would make outdoor events more fun. Then, after roaming the range of possibility, the group reconvened to sort through information and identify areas to pursue, using processes such as clustering and sorting themes from data gathering, feasibility analysis and creating an "idealistic story" as further guidance for the new hunting grounds -- the company's reimagined target markets. Eventually, new product ideas and opportunities were built on these steps.

The result for Coleman? Three new product categories: backyard gatherings, outdoor events (such as tailgating parties) and emergency preparedness. "New product areas and growth are all about creative problem solving," says Woodland. With strengthened market share and a focus on emergency preparedness, Coleman has staked out thoroughly modern hunting grounds.

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