The fuzzy front end of innovation confronts you with a lot of questions. For the new edition of my book Creating innovative Products and Services, I have posted a question on front-end innovation struggles to innovation practitioners in more than 20 Linkedin groups. The response was massive. I made a list of forty reasons why people struggle starting innovation in their companies in daily practice.
- We are uncertain if we can be creative and come up with ideas.
- How do we change our existing habits?
- There are too little ideas because people don’t dare to think innovative any more.
- A lot of people are lazy, just copying others work.
- There is a substantial lack of curiosity among people in our company.
- How to get key people in our organization aware of the need for innovation?
- People don’t really believe that innovation is truly going to happen.
- We lack the ability to invoke change, the ability to change the mindset of we’ve always done it that way.
- We do not have the guts (mind power) to bring an idea.
- Our past innovations were not successful and have cost a lot of money. This blocks new initiatives.
- Our short-term mindset overrules the long-term mindset and vision to innovate.
- There is no vision where we want to go in the future as a company.
- How do I know at what moment I have to start innovating?
- Ideas are too ambitious therefore we can’t imagine how they ever will be feasible.
- It’s very hard to imagine the future.
- We fear failure.
- Those in our company that don’t understand the idea or new product will attack and ridicules the newness of it.
- The critical thing at the front end in our company is the demonstration of the positive bottom-line impact of the new service or product.
- The hardest part of beginning an innovation is trying to get the support for the idea of innovation.
- How do I share my ideas with others in the company efficient?
- How to create sponsorship for innovation at the top?
- How to communicate ideas to the right people?
- How do you convince each internal stakeholder they benefit from innovation?
- Negativity – “we tried it x numbers of ago, it does not work in our environment” – is the biggest stumbling block in our company.
- How do we get consensus on a solution from majority of the stakeholders?
D. Market Insights
- Often customers don’t even know themselves what they would want or benefit from.
- We struggle to get inside the head of the purchaser of the product or service.
- How to uncover the true customer need?
E. Process & Tools
- Our innovation process is not well organized.
- There are too many ideas from which it is hard to choose.
- We do not stick to the original idea. Instead we take often the easier way.
- How do we decide what is a good idea?
- How do you filter ideas and at what point in the process do you throw out ideas?
- Everyone is talking about innovation, but few know what to start doing differently to make it happen.
- How do we select of the right technology/platform?
- It is difficult to translate the results of user studies into the language of technology development.
- How do we guide the new product development team so that their ideas are in line with the company’s strategy?
- We do not have the right people in the room for the opportunity.
- Ideas are stopped because we do not have resources related to the needed talent.
- It is challenging for us to get internal teams to think beyond what made our company successful thus far.
Of course this is not a scientific proven list. I see it more as ‘a cry for help’ from innovation practitioners in their daily work.
In my book Creating Innovative Products and Services, I introduce a structured innovation method, called FORTH. User feedback on this structured ideation approach shows that the strength of a structured ideation approach like the FORTH innovation method is in 5 aspects:
- The innovation assignment at the start gives clear focus and expectations,
- The team discovers relevant customer insights themselves,
- The best innovative concepts are approved by customer,
- You return with four practical mini new business cases,
- The team approach creates internal support (at the top level).
The FORTH method deals with a lot of the forty above-mentioned struggles. You can download thirteen checklists on the FORTH innovation method for free. If you like to share with us your solutions, please do! I wish you a lot of success solving your struggles at the front end of innovation.
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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.