Winning Innovation Strategy

How Do You Create A Winning Innovation Strategy?

Michael Tchong Innovation Leave a Comment

Now that the concept of innovation is defined, its history covered and its current importance explained, it’s time to apply innovation to your business. An innovation strategy should be a crucial part of any business model although often ignored to the detriment of companies trying to keep up in the digital age.

The following considerations will help you identify and foster potential innovation opportunities within your organization.

The McKinsey Global Institute provides a detailed analysis of eight essentials for creativity at the organizational level to help “rekindle the lost spark of innovation”. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Aspire – Develop an aspirational business plan with clearly defined financial objectives. Encourage innovation at every level of your organization by challenging your employees to meet these goals.
  • Choose – Decide which ideas to fund and support. Larger companies initiate several projects at once to see how they fare in the market before fully financing the most successful ones and letting the less productive ideas die out.
  • Discover – Search for a problem to solve for your target market, the solution to that problem, and a business model that will generate profit. McKinsey calls this the insight discovery process.
  • Evolve – Evolve your business to stay competitive, informing changes with thorough market research.
  • Accelerate – Speed up the push to get new technologies to market by involving a focus group or soft launching early on in development so you can receive feedback and iterate the product before launching to a broader consumer base.
  • Scale – Understand the appropriate scale of your product. Grant resources and assume risks accordingly.
  • Extend – Broaden your product’s reach through collaboration with external partners.
  • Mobilize – Foster a work environment that makes innovation a part of your company’s culture.
“The best approach to developing a viable innovation strategy is discovery of a so-called ‘pain point.’”

Innovation is a part of human nature, and great inventions are the bedrock of our collective history. While we will continue to find creative solutions to the problems before us, both big and small, the best approach to developing a viable innovation strategy is discovery of a so-called “pain point.”

But finding an effective solution to a problem is pretty hard to do if you don’t understand the why behind the what. That’s the reason some of the largest firms in the country deploy innovation application frameworks, such as Continuum’s Phase Zero process.

Phase Zero is what Continuum calls their unique approach to inducing innovation. Instead of just focusing on the design that they were hired to create, Phase Zero requires each designer to take a step back and focus on the context of the product, in other words – the why.

A Fast Company article uses Swiffer and The Reebok Pump as examples of “game changers” — products that were able to provide a solution to an “unspoken customer need through deep-level design thinking.”

When Proctor & Gamble decided that they needed a new cleaning product, they turned to Continuum for help. After researching the market, Continuum reached the conclusion that P&G’s customers needed a faster way to clean floors. So, P&G set out to create something that worked like a mop – but better. Voilà, enter the Swiffer.

When creating innovative products, there are several important questions that you need to ask yourself or your team. The Fast Company article encourages considering:

  • How do they interact with current products on the market?
  • What challenges do they have with the current offerings?

Yet another “game-changing” solution provided by Continuum was The Reebok Pump. After researching high school basketball players, Continuum discovered that because of the player’s age, growth spurts were having a major impact on whether their shoes were too loose or too tight. To provide a viable solution, Continuum devised “an inflatable air pocket around the ankle” that actually reduced the number of player injuries by allowing the shoe to fit each player in a unique way.

What’s the takeaway from this article? A bit of due diligence researching your target audience can shed a spotlight on problems consumers may not know they have. So, just remember, don’t put the what before the why.

The age of the internet has produced a remarkable and seemingly infinite set of opportunities for innovation, along with them new problems to solve and needs to fulfill. That bodes well for theforward-thinking companies that can keep up with new technologies and convert their creative resources into unique innovations that will boost their bottom line.

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Michael Tchong
Michael Tchong
Michael Tchong is a professional people watcher and founder of four ahead-of-the-wave startups. He’s also a top-rated innovation and trends speaker, and an adjunct professor of innovation and social media at the University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley.
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