Recently, I have been working with many clients to help implement a best-practice innovation process. Regardless of industry, business type or whether they are a medium or large organisation, similar problems pop up when analysing their current innovation process. For example, a typical ‘front-end’ pitfall is when organisations leapfrog from an innovation mission straight into idea generation, unfortunately missing some important steps along the way.
Before jumping straight into idea generation it is critical that all team members gain a broad understanding of the environment. This environment scan is important to identify what, and where, the greatest opportunities for innovation are, within the boundaries of the innovation mission you are focused on. These opportunities can be crafted into challenges to solve and then taken into the idea generation stage.
The innovation process functions like Christmas tree lights. If there is one step that is ‘broken’, or not done adequately, then every subsequent step will be negatively affected. Therefore, getting the first steps right is critical.
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Even if, for example, an organisation does an amazing job at the ‘back-end’ of their innovation process (prototyping and implementing), if the idea wasn’t the best or biggest opportunity in the first place then there is the potential that a whole lot of effort has been put in for not a whole lot of return.
Is your organisation guilty of front-end leapfrogging?
1. Is the challenge you are generating ideas for too broad? You might be confusing an innovation mission with an innovation challenge.
2. Do you place customers at the heart (and start) of your innovation process? If not, you may be missing the biggest innovation opportunities.
3. Is there always urgency from the organisation to come up with a solution? If yes, this may mean you haven’t done an adequate environment scan.
Here are a few best-practice tips for improving the front-end of your innovation process and, in particular, your environment scan:
1. Focus on customers. Identify the problems they are trying to solve when they purchase your product/service. This could also be internal customers if looking at internal processes.
2. Focus on frustrations. Identify where the biggest gap exists between different customer problems and the current market offerings.
3. Find the opportunity before proceeding too far down the track.
If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts on this front-end pitfall, you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org