One of the most frequent things I hear from clients is that they need to add more structure to their innovation. Innovation is a strange thing: it does require structure but one that is too rigid can kill the necessary creativity and spontaneity. At the Product Lab, we understand the importance of both.
Creativity establishes competitive edge whilst structure reduces business risk and generates the best return on investment. So how can you create a successful innovation strategy that combines them? Well, here are my 6 steps to innovation and successful concept development:
1. Review the market
If you are struggling to innovate, start here. Businesses think they are doing this all the time, but in reality they are not; some people do it, some of the time. Formalise this step and you will kick start the innovation process. Research the competition, their products and services, see what is good and bad about them.
2. Understand what customers want
Again, this step sounds obvious and simple. But doing it well is another matter. This step is about getting into the mind-set of your consumer. Find out what makes them tick; what influences their decisions, how they live, choose, and buy. Ask why they buy from the companies they do and what they like and dislike about them.
3. Size the potential market
Okay, you’ve got some insight into customers and want to start developing new products. Stop! Slow down! The question you should now be asking is, how many other customers share the problems or needs revealed in step 2? Before you go any further, build a survey that quantifies how many people share the same traits. opinions or behaviours. Businesses often skip this step due to cost. I’d encourage you not to. The findings will ground your decision making process going forwards.
Right, now is the time to get those creative juices flowing by using what you have found in the previous 3 steps. Get colleagues, acquaintances or even family and friends to help you to come up with ideas for new products and services. Discuss and debate what you have found so far. Thrash out what is important, what represents a good business opportunity and prioritise. Use all of the data gathered. Create a long list of ideas. Don’t narrow it down too quickly.
5. Screen your ideas to identify the winners
This step will reduce your long list of ideas into a shortlist of great concepts. Good product development should start with a long list of propositions, which is then reduced into a short list of contenders. At the Product Lab we make sure that consumer research is at the heart of this process so that your shortlist reflects what people want and will buy. Our advice is to evaluate which products are interesting and unique. If a large group of customers find your concept both interesting and unique, you have a potential winner.
6. Develop the features of your new product
Now you have your shortlist of concepts, you can develop them further. Work on 1, 2 or 3 concepts at most. Use your research into the market and customer to identify the type of features that your service or product needs. At the Product Lab we strongly encourage you to involve consumers in this stage too because it ensures you develop features in line with their needs and not yours. We use phased brainstorming with customers to evaluate proposed features, ask for input in generating new ones and prioritise which are most important to them.
And that’s it! Do these things, in this order and on a regular basis and you will succeed! As one famous Meerkat said, Simples!
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