Breaking The Pattern Of Innovation Stagnation

The best way to ideate and validate a new product is to do so quickly


Former Apple Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki famously said, 'don’t worry, be crappy' in describing his unique approach to innovation and value creation. Kawasaki’s point wasn’t that we should make sub-par products, but rather that the best approach to innovation is one in which ideas are developed and validated quickly, incremental releases pushed out faster, and then insider stakeholders as well as the consumer audience are engaged to provide feedback in a process of continuous improvement.

The bureaucratic approach applied by many large organizations takes perfectionism to the extreme, and as a result, new innovations may become stagnant or irrelevant by the time they work their way through multiple layers of approval, countless revisions, and endless focus groups. Smaller competitors – or even larger firms that know how to innovate quickly – end up eating your lunch. The best way to ideate and validate a new product is to do so quickly. Waiting until everything is perfect, and every possible stakeholder is 100% satisfied, will result in the market passing you by.

Speed is, of course, only one element of success in new product innovation. An innovation team that consists of subject matter experts from throughout the company, and a willingness to embrace new methods of product development, are essential, as we saw in a recent lean innovation effort. In this effort, one corporate team undertook a 'hundred day challenge' to create and validate brand new product ideas. During the challenge, this global pharmaceutical company was able to identify and validate three new product ideas that could contribute millions of dollars in revenue by 2020.

Using Schaffer Consulting’s Rapid Results process, the pharma company was able to disrupt old patterns and create a more entrepreneurial culture. In the process, the cross-functional team, drawn from a variety of core functions including R&D, product development, project managers, regulatory experts, marketing professionals, and IT, discovered more of their own creative abilities to develop new solutions that were previously unseen in the marketplace. The effort began with team-building, leveraging consumer insights from prior research to identify new product solutions, and zeroing in on the offerings most likely to win in the marketplace. During the last month of the 100-day initiative, the proposals were refined and investment decisions followed. The accelerated product development mindset used innovative new tactics – supplementing traditional consumer research labs with informal interviews, allowing them to move more quickly and with less structure.

The initiative did more than just put new products in the pipeline – it ushered in cultural changes and a shift in the company’s way of thinking that accelerated not only a specific set of product ideas, but also the process by which all product ideas are created. By breaking free from old methods, the team was able to execute quickly, pull away from established processes, and develop accurate and meaningful propositions that delivered tangible value to the company.


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