Innovation starts with ideation
More than ever, corporate executives consider product innovation to be a competitive necessity and a key factor in driving business growth through increased revenue, lowered costs and reduced time to market. This is reflected in the fact that even during
Critical to any innovation is the practice of ideation. Ideation is the process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas. Now more than ever innovation cannot be a part time project. It requires an ongoing commitment to certain practices to ensure that a business can out innovate its competition.
However, few organisations invest in the practice of Ideation, which requires a commitment to a culture of safety and inclusion. In Velteo, an Innovation Consultancy I co-founded, we ideated on a daily basis by fostering a culture that democratised the creation of ideas and further developed them through robust ideation practices and processes.
In one example we developed a Mobility application for the FMCG industry, after crowdsourcing the name, the logo and the functionality with every member of the team. Nomad was born. It was developed on the Apple iOS platform and integrated into Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform for back office integration with product data, sales call activity and client data. Our ideation process was simple: crowd source all ideas, filter them through a robust Fail Fast model where feasibility was tested and commit to building and testing whilst providing feedback to all contributors.
Not all innovation needs to be about efficiency though, in the case of Nomad
it was also about inspiration. Nomad provided leadership with lead indicators that helped the business further innovate through access to real time business intelligence. This enabled customers to tune their businesses in a much more agile fashion and meet customer demands with faster turn around times.
Managing innovation is a critical success factor for decision-making in product development. It focuses explicitly on the front-end of the operational phase of business innovation, namely idea generation and concept development. A dearth of ideas is not the main challenge that many companies experience, on the contrary, they have too many of them, with no clear way of extracting and nurturing the potentially great ideas that will drive true market success.
Simple web-enabled ‘idea boxes’ that anyone can access have generally proven ineffective. That is because they merely act as collection points, with no provision for helping to identify and develop those ideas with real potential. The most successful ideation solutions support targeted ‘idea events’ and idea development, while also ensuring that the ideation process is linked to strategy.
Successful idea development is in fact frequently based on campaigns about a specific strategic topic and aimed at a particular, relevant community of innovators. In our case it was to meet the needs of the FMCG market for a field force application. An effective idea development solution is based on a set of proven best practices. In our view, adherence to the following principles will spell the difference between a portfolio of average ideas and a portfolio of great ideas that have the potential to become great products. They are as follows: • Support idea development via campaigns that reflect your corporate strategy • Automatically connect submitters to other knowledge sources and leverage those connections to develop ideas through structured discussions and links to existing ideas • Enable cultures and communities to participate in innovation (having the ability to model these groups) • Enable an appropriate workflow of ideas (not the traditional stage- and phase-based processes, which will be applied later during product development). An innovation management solution enables the assessment of ideas by diverse people inside the company, facilitates the analysis of several ideas at once, and incorporates benchmarking comparisons and input from third-party industry experts.
When exploring a potential strategic market or technology, it is often useful to search the landscape for potentially competitive intellectual property (IP). This helps a company determine whether it is free to operate in particular identified areas of opportunity.
Questions that should be considered include: 1. What is the relative strength of our IP position against existing and potential competitors in this field? 2. What new patent filings, if any, have our competitors placed recently? What is the content of those patents? Do they infringe on any areas our company has been contemplating? 3. Are there freedom-to-operate
Managing innovation is a critical success factor for decision-making in product development.’
‘white spaces’ that could be of value to our organisation and/or should be investigated further? Are there areas that we should invest in now to protect our freedom to operate against future competition?
A growing number of companies have begun to use software to mine patent intelligence as a way of uncovering new product and market opportunities. These efforts help to fuel their idea development efforts.
An idea development solution will make it easy to push high-value ideas to the execution stages of product development. A comprehensive, strategically oriented solution seamlessly integrates innovation management into the rest of the product development process, increasing the chances of monetising on the right ideas.
Business Innovation recognises that while product innovation depends on the actions of creative individuals within the organisation, improving the business benefits of product innovation is about increasing an organisation’s capacity to make effective decisions at all points of the product innovation process.
Effective decision-making offers numerous benefits: • Process execution is aligned with strategies for growing value and increasing market share • Those involved in product innovation are able to select and prioritise ‘winners’ Management can avoid wasting precious creative resources on product ideas that are destined for failure; and
Innovators are able to follow innovation processes efficiently, which improves time to market.
In order to achieve these benefits, decision-making needs to be supported by efficient, structured processes, which generate the necessary data without hindering the creativity of those engaged in product innovation.