Innovation isn’t the result of luck
You want to re-invigorate your product portfolio. Or you see a new opportunity in the market that you think can be your’s. Strategy and innovation go hand in hand. Thanks to systematic and people-oriented methods you can replace the mantra to “fail fast” with that of fast learning – a crucial difference.
Your success depends on utilizing your people’s creativity and on managing the risks associated with novelty. There is a wealth of methods at your disposal. Yet, you have no time to become familiar with them all just to choose what works best for you and your situation. You can’t afford shooting from the hip, either.
We can help. It is the interplay of people and systematic methods that creates the most important opportunities. Not only “outside the box”, also inside you can find opportunities worth pursuing and novelty that your competition has not spotted.
Be happy if your competitor considers “systematic innovation” an oxymoron. Because it is not. Innovation is about bringing to fruition the full bandwidth of human creativity. That doesn’t happen by chance.
The underlying roadmap is well-known: Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. At the heart of these activities is empathy for future users and for their environment. Start with an opportunity in the market and work your way towards successfully testing a solution. Several methodologies, such as TRIZ or the “Job to be Done”, can be woven into or practiced along this “approach-agnostic” roadmap.
The life-cycle of innovation
What if the opportunity were still fuzzy? Or what if the goal were to translate a known solution into commercial success? These are different questions that can’t be addressed with the “Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test” roadmap.
Opportunities in the market need to be recognized and validated.
What are the needs of future users?
Most often, these can’t readily be formulated. Ethnographic or demographic methods help reach beyond classical “Voice of the Customer“ investigations. They lead to the discovery of numerous unmet needs, the most promising of which can be selected for the creation of novelty.
What are the relevant trends?
Recognizing relevant trends amongst all ongoing shifts and tendencies requires systematic approaches. Success depends on their skillful application.Future scenarios are then built from these trends and inform the creation of novelty. Innovation in one domain can also shape expectations in another – another source of opportunities.
How will technologies evolve?
That question is crucial, namely these days, in the face of digitization. What technologies are relevant in your industry? What level of maturity have they reached? How can they be expected to change with digitization? What other technologies are currently emerging? Are there technologies in an infancy-stage with a potential to fundamentally change your industry? You can find novelty in the answers to all these questions.
How will things evolve?
Products, services, processes and business models evolve along predictable paths. For a given offering you can analyze its maturity with regards to these paths – and predict its future evolution. Again you find numerous opportunities for creating novelty.
All along the way from defining your specific innovation opportunity to testing solutions, what matters is empathy for future users. Observation, an immersion in their environment, and if possible their involvement are critical to success.
Many a creation of novelty starts with shortcomings of the current solution. A better guide often is the job that users are trying to get done. Studying jobs instead of solutions helps identifying specific needs. This leads to surprising insights and allows nailing down specific innovation opportunities.
To create ideas for addressing these opportunities, function analysis, the investigation of contradictions, “product DNA”, patent research and numerous other systematic methods are available to identify promising solution concepts.
The resulting wealth of concepts is used to develop “mock-up” and simple solution prototypes. These allow for testing fast the underlying hypotheses and for understanding in detail a solution’s key success factors.
The knowledge thus gained is used to build “minimum viable products” and to test them under real-life conditions. The goal is to learn what matters most for scaling up the solution.
Most organizations have developed discipline and repeatable recipes for commercializing proven solutions. They dispose of a “Development Handbook” or utilize an often carefully documented “Lean Product Development Process” that consists of 7-12 individual phases, each with clear to-do lists and success criteria.
How “lean” is your “Lean PD” process? Do you measure and manage your backlog? If the term doesn’t mean much to you, then you don’t. There are also proven “design for X” methods for products, processes and services. Namely Design for Six Sigma, Function Design, TRIZ and other approaches can help address specific challenges inside an otherwise well-rounded flow for development.
Manage the entire life-cycle of innovation
A frequent mistake is to apply commercialization approaches to the identification of opportunity or to the creation of novelty. Invariably, that sets the right people on a wrong path, leads to improvisation and success ultimately remains behind potential.
Addressing each phase in the life-cycle of innovation with the suited approaches is what makes all the difference.