“We need to grow our business and innovate ahead of the competition,” is today’s common refrain in a hyper-competitive world that is enabled through accelerating technology advancement. At Sparxoo Agency, yesterday’s call to elevate brand positioning is being replaced with tomorrow’s call to create the future through brand and product innovation. Innovation is seen as a key source of competitive advantage, and a way to develop or extend customer relationships through WOW products and experiences.
Recently, we have observed companies grabbling with the innovation challenge and have witnessed their shortcomings in conceiving of and vigorously pursuing breakaway innovation. A key bottleneck: the lack of outstanding ideas that can fill the gap of blockbuster new products. Their most common substitute: a lot of small bets that are generally destined for mediocrity or failure.
Wouter Koetzier said it best, “The best ideas rarely appear out of thin air. The only way to come up with the best innovative ideas – consistently and repeatedly – is to make innovation an essential part of how you do business, of your strategy.” Indeed, according to an Accenture report in 2011, just one in every 1,000 innovative ideas actually proves successful. Innovation requires higher quality ideas, which is why we have developed Sparxoo’s Breakaway Innovation process which emphasizes The Vital Idea Ecosystem.
The above illustration outlines the innovation process. The remainder of this post introduces the first step (Mission). We will follow-up with details, tips and suggestions on the full breakaway innovation process on our digital and brand innovation blog.
Mission. The mission is akin to setting business goals and objectives. We choose to use the term “Mission” because this implies there is more purpose to innovation. During the Mission stage of innovation, top management identifies market/target groups for innovation, criteria for success, and a core team to accomplish goals. Top management should have a vested interest in a successful project outcome. To set business goals and strategic guidelines for innovation, start with strategic questions such as:
- What’s the business problem?
- How is the business or market changing?
- What is the potential opportunity?
- What will it take to achieve success?
The pursuit of breakaway innovations requires breakthrough-specific capabilities and significant strategic commitment . Breakaway Innovation is transformational, resulting in the emergence of a new state that is a radical reconceptualization of the mission, culture, and leadership for the organization, and can result in new-to-the-world products & services. We suggest a kickoff workshop in which all team members discuss common success factors in innovation (requirements of the innovation process) such as:
- Core project team is assigned with strict deadlines
- Fits organization’s overall goals
- Differentiation (stands out in the market)
- Getting customers to say “Wow” (very appealing to customers)
- Financial opportunity (revenue and profit)
- It is considered operationally feasible
- Gathers its own internal support
Once the mission is set, we move into The Vital Idea Ecosystem, which is so named because new product success and failure is often decided before the new product project even enters the product development phase. Accordingly, we recommend emphasizing Inspiration, Ideation, and Prototyping.
Inspiration, step 2, is the foundation upon which ideation can flourish. The goal of the Inspiration step is to develop in-depth insight into what is moving your (potential) customers – their hidden needs – and what is driving markets inspires you to take the next step, to develop the foresight required to identify your future growth markets and products. Research has shown that a strong market orientation and superior skills in marketing research are associated with successful product innovation programs. That’s why we suggest prioritizing the customer for inspiration.
We also note that as technology allows manufacturers to deliver as much and often more functionality than the typical consumer can use, the bases of competition will change. Rather than compete on yet more features and functions we will see manufacturers compete even more on style, on design and on emotional connection, with approaches used in the luxury and fashion markets being increasingly adopted in more traditional sectors. (Read more)
From Inspiration, we move to Ideation (or Step 3), at the heart of innovation, which is why we’ll be dedicating a full follow-on blog post to this topic. For now, we’ll convince you to increase your attention to this step: a major benchmarking study undertaken by one of the authors reveals that only 19% of businesses have a proficient ideation front-end to feed their development funnel. (Read more)
If your team prioritizes innovation, we applaud you for recognizing the importance of innovation in gaining competitive advantage. For best results, prioritize ideation and embrace non-traditional methods to come up with ideas. The extra weeks and months of ideation (see 6 innovation exercises) can be the difference between pursuing a winner and a loser. More tips and insights to come in a follow–up post. Good luck as you ambitiously pursue breakaway innovation.