There are many innovation activities a company could employ to innovate, from ideation workshops, idea management platforms, hackatons, design sprints, intrapreneurship contests to open innovation and innovation labs.

However, most companies don’t have the capabilities and skills to execute all these activities. Arguably the most suitable innovation activity they could use are projects across a front-end innovation process such as Design Thinking. This would cover the stages between challenge or problem identification to prototype testing, before going to market.

  1. Portfolio view of products and services
  2. Select one – the scope of your project – your future driver of growth
  3. Set up the team
  4. Define the innovation process – business design
  5. Structure your assumptions – your customer needs (jobs to be done, pains and gains)   
  6. Discover and validate your assumptions – experiments
  7. Create ideas create solution prototypes
  8. Test / validate your assumptions through experiments
  9. Define the business model, using collaboration software and tools
  10. Define your MVP
  11. Go to market

The natural questions arising are: Where should we innovate? What is the ideal team for an innovation project? How does a front-end innovation process look like? What tools could we use?

Where to innovate? Defining your innovation project

Always align innovation with your corporate and business unit strategy (to avoid the ”innovation theatre”)

A good place to start could be visualising your portfolio of products and services. One simple way of doing that could be the Pioneers-Migrators-Settlers Map.

How to innovate - portfolio analysis
How to innovate? Portfolio analysis

The Pioneer-Migrator-Settler Map is an analytical tool used to

  1. Succinctly illustrate a company’s current industry landscape, and identify where its portfolio stands in relation to the competition
  2. See beyond today’s performance and identify the growth potential of current and future businesses 

The idea is to identify a low-growing product or service and apply the innovation process on it. At the end you might get an improved product or service (renovation / incremental innovation), a new product / service (reinvention / adjacent innovation) or a completely new business model, a new product / service offering in a new market (reimagination / transformational innovation). 

Project team

The project team should represent all key business functions: customer facing, product, sales, marketing, product, operations, finance, legal, compliance. Also, it should be a heterogeneous team, in terms of business experience, seniority, genders and personality type, and ideally should include some influential people in the organisation.  

Innovation process

In terms of process, the Design Thinking could be a great process for understanding opportunities and creating and testing solutions in an iterative way (fail fast / learn / adapt).

Understand

  • Analyze external environment (market forces, industry forces, trends etc.)
  • Analyze customer needs and fit with current offering

Explore

  • Develop new ideas for creating value to customers
  • Redefine value proposition to target customer needs
  • Ideate on how to innovate at various levels (business model blocks)
  • Create several business model prototypes

Materialise

  • Create and test value proposition and business model prototypes
  • Select best and prepare go to market

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