One of my paid hobbies has been innovation for the company, as in making new technology work for us to help us complete our jobs for clients, easier, faster, or more reliable. More than a year ago, one of my responsibilities shifted from process innovation to business development. Loving it.
In my free time, I took basic courses in project management, both waterfall and agile, read business books like Tribal Leadership and The Culture Game, all good and valuable, but none of these prompted me to post.
The framework for directed innovation does. It is old enough to be proven in business and criticized in public, yet new enough (to me, anyway) to get excited about innovation insights. (You too, maybe?)
Let's begin with quoting from one of many insightful articles from the company Strategyn, whose logo I borrowed for the image, The New Language of Innovation.
The Language of Innovation
Since people buy products and services to get a job done, innovation is defined as the process of devising a product or service concept that helps customers get a job or jobs done better. The innovation process begins with market selection and ends with a product or service concept that is approved for development. Ideally, only winning product concepts enter the development process. To be approved for development, a winning concept must also meet company success and societal criteria.
Idea-first Approach to Innovation
An inherently flawed approach to innovation that starts with the generation of ideas and is followed by evaluation and filtering methods that determine which ideas customers like best without ever explicitly understanding all their needs. Although this approach is popular, the chances of coming up with an idea that precisely addresses all the unmet needs of target customers is near zero. This approach is analogous to a sharpshooter trying to hit a target without knowing what the target is or a doctor prescribing a treatment without observing patient symptoms. It is a time-consuming and costly approach that may never produce a winning concept. Because it is nothing more than guesswork, it will always result in low success rates.
Needs-first Approach to Innovation
An approach to innovation in which companies first uncover all the customer’s needs, then determine which are unmet, and then devise solutions to address those unmet needs. Historically, the needs-first approach to innovation has been ineffective, but the approach is not inherently flawed. The approach has been ineffective because in most companies there is no agreement on what a need is, and few companies believe all the customer’s needs can be captured. They have been told for years that customers can’t articulate their needs and that customers have latent needs, neither of which is true. (See “customer need”.)
Outcome-Driven Innovation is an innovation process invented by Strategyn in 1991 that has been tested and refined for over 20 years. It is an effective needs-first approach to innovation that has an 86 percent success rate.
That's a bold promise, and reading through their published examples, I believe this approach can deliver in many corporate cultures. "Failing fast and pivoting are not an innovation strategy", says Tony Ulwick, author of what customers want and Strategyn CEO, in the Innovation and Strategy Blog.
@GrahamHill whose tweets led me to this track, and to many others. You know who you are.
Looking forward to learn more. What say you?
Full disclosure: I hold no stake in this company and am not a client, nor affiliated to officers of theirs.