Sorting the Malt from the Grain
In my last post I wrote about how I had fun ideating 4.8 million unique whiskies. Unfortunately my drinks cabinet can't support such a selection. What I really need to do is sort the wheat from the chaff, or as those further from the start of the whisky-making process would put it, the malt from the grain.
With unlimited resources the optimal method would be to print every unique concept and somehow select which one appeals the most. But even if my inkjet could cope with the production demands, I'm pretty sure my eyes could not process the informational overload, and it is my personal opinion that headaches caused by whisky are only permissible through very occasional over-indulgence.
At the other extreme I could just look at the list of 40 element variations and decide for myself which combination makes the best holistic concept. I much prefer sharing a dram to drinking alone, but what if my friends don't like my choice? Unilateral decisions negate most of the benefits of a good ideation, and are likely to gravitate to "safe" combinations, which research has shown perform no better than a randomly selected concept. This decision making model is known as the "highest paid person's opinion", or HiPPO, presumably by those who don't use it.
The compromise solution is to examine each element - the branding, substantiator, bottle colour, cask finish, maturation, and tasting notes, in 6 separate exercises. That would certainly make the task more manageable. I prefer the idea of French oak over the other cask options. I like the sound of a "leathery" finish. But what if this combination isn't the strongest? What about the synergy created by a Fino Sherry cask with a leathery finish? Umm, that sounds good...
So has the creative process been a waste of time and effort, either providing potentially terrible concoctions of individually appealing elements, or handing control of the distillery to a HiPPO and hoping that everyone else likes what it makes?
Or could building evolutionary algorithms into a discrete choice framework of holistic concepts save my whisky from status quo innovation, and help me design my double dram iddea?
Outside of running an imaginery distillery, Ben likes to help organisations make better marketing decisions by including consumer wants, needs, and behaviours alongside the corporate agenda. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenLangleben.