Never start product or service innovation with an idea. Of course: innovation is initially about ideas. About getting the right ones. And realising these ideas in practice. A shining light bulb has become a global symbol for innovation. Just check Google images and type innovation and then you will see proof of this.
Here are three reasons why you should not start with an idea.
- An idea makes you blind. Once you have your idea you will probably fall in love with it. That’s a great feeling indeed. But love makes blind, unfortunately. The psychological phenomenon of selective perception will make you see only the positive points of the idea and only listen to people who are supporting you. If this is the case, you will run into a hard wall 80 percent of the time without an alternative or alternatives to test.
- It’s very difficult to convince others. What happens when you tell your idea to someone else? Their first reaction often starts often with a ‘but…’ Others within your company will start criticising your idea the moment it is told to them if only because the idea is not theirs. Furthermore companies are structured to maintain the current operational processes and account for the results produced. Should the size and complexity of the organisation increase, innovation often becomes more difficult. Too often, the process of innovation seems almost unnatural. A solution is getting ideas together in a team setting so the ownership of the idea is shared.
- Only 1.5 out of 7 product ideas are introduced. A number of studies on new product innovation (Robert G. Cooper, 2011) showed that for every seven new-product ideas, about 4 enter development, 1.5 are launched and only 1 succeeds. These are poor odds as there is a chance of around 1 in 5 that your idea will reach the market. So what do you do when your boss, the Vice-President of Marketing or the Innovation Board stops your new product idea? Do you have any alternatives available to test and realise your business challenge? So never bet on one horse. That’s the message.
So, how should you start innovation?
You should never start an innovation expedition unprepared. As good preparation not only increases the chances of success but it also creates priorities, direction and the will to succeed. That’s why it is essential to start with a clear and concrete innovation assignment. This forces the top management in your company, from the start, to be concrete about the market/target group for which the innovations must be developed and which criteria these new concepts must meet. This forms the guidelines for you and your innovation team when you are underway. You can formulate the innovation assignment with the help of the following six questions:
- Why? (Why do we want to innovate)
- Who? (Who is the target group)
- Where? (For which distribution channels, countries, regions or continents)
- What? (Evolutionary or revolutionary; products, services and/or business models)
- When? (Intended year of introduction)
- Which? (Which criteria the new concepts should meet)
So in discussion with your top management, you can collectively formulate which criteria the new product/service ideas must meet as well as determine the ambition level.
This innovation assignment gives direction and manages expectations of both the top management as the members of the innovation team. You can download a free checklist on how to make an innovation assignment at the website of the FORTH innovation method.
I wish you a lot of success jump-starting innovation: not with an idea but with a concrete assignment!
image credit: technorati.com
Gijs van Wulfen leads ideation processes and is the founder of the FORTH innovation method. He is the author of Creating Innovative Products & Services, published by Gower.