“Innovation” is a popular buzzword for companies to describe how they are developing new services/merchandise for their customers. Some companies have full-time research and development (R&D) departments, some conduct focus groups with their customers, and some hold employee idea “jams” or brainstorming sessions. These companies are all trying to find the “next big thing” or to get ahead of their competition
It is tough to create inspiration. It is even tougher to try to manage it.
I am working with a client that is trying to create new ways to communicate with its customers and to excite them about interacting with them. The client is in an industry with several strong competitors, and even must compete with several of their own partners for market share. While my client is tops in its industry, they know they cannot wait for new ideas to come to them … they must create them.
One of the first hurdles they faced was: “how can you be results-oriented with something as ethereal as inspiration?” It seems counterintuitive to put structure around brainstorms. And, how do you choose the idea that is the right one to pursue?
The client did their research with universities, consulting companies and entrepreneurs to find out how others had been successful with innovation. They found that no one had a good answer for them. So, they innovated a way to do it.
Here’s a high-level view into how they have been running a results-oriented innovation lab:
- Keep it small – the organization can’t be so big that it cannot maneuver quickly. The client has many partners who do a lot of work for them, but the client only has 2 people in their group.
- Remember the purpose – define what you are trying to accomplish, then measure all ideas against that vision. Sounds simple, but you can spread yourself very thin quickly if you lose focus.
- Experiment – get the idea out into the real world quickly. The world does not always work the way you think it should.
- Measure – look at the results of your experiment. What did you learn that was new? Does your idea of success look different?
- Decide – now that you have results, then what do you do? Keep going down the same path? Change something? Or just throw it away and try something completely new?
- Rinse and repeat – if you stick with the original idea, then experiment again, measure it and learn again. Keep this cycle short in order to get results quickly.
- Learn – success or failure all render education that must be used to influence the next iteration.
So far, my client is poised to put one of its first innovations into the marketplace, with two others beginning the Experiment phase. They also plan to continue the innovation effort for the long term.