Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Create a platform for your future product innovation

When setting out to deliver new breakthrough product offerings to your market, I have found that a key first step is to construct a picture of your current business, market and offer. By taking stock of your current situation in a multi-dimensional way you can set an innovation context to help you target future opportunities in a more effective way.

When I work with my clients to create market breakthrough products, because I’m often new to their business and I need to get up to speed quickly, I run through a discussion guide covering all aspects of the innovation space available to their business in future. Of course, depending on the client business I will tailor the questions to suit but the overall structure for my interview is broadly shown in this diagram:

My first area of focus is around Business Direction, Processes and Value Model. The key areas I probe here are:

Values, Culture and Leadership:

- What principles form the basis for behaviours within the organisation and, more specifically, what are the key criteria which provide the basis for prioritisation decisions? I will probe this area by referring to specific examples from the company’s innovation history.
- Where does the key drive for innovation come from within the organisation? For is innovation initiated most commonly in sales, manufacturing or R&D?
- Wexample, hat is the attitude to risk? Is decision making based on gaining consensus or through personal accountability?
- How engaged is senior management in innovation activity?
- What type of innovation mindset does senior management have? E.g. when they say they want a “break-though” do they really mean it?
- How does the business Mission Statement relate to this innovation challenge?

Business Processes, Financials, Business Model and Network:

- What product development process does the company operate?
- What processes does the company follow to build its capabilities? E.g. recruitment, research, manufacturing, commercial, marketing and sales.
- What processes does the company follow to generate revenues?
- What other partners operate in the value chain and what are their financial investment and rewards?
- Who are the key partners and suppliers?
- How is the organisation funded?
- What is the attitude to capital spending and valuation of assets? I probe around tangible assets and intangible assets (e.g. IP)

My second area of focus is the Market:

Market structure:

- Who does the client sell their product or service to?
- Who uses the product?
- What does the market landscape look like? How does the client segment their market?
- What is the geographic scope of the current market?
- Who are the other stakeholders in the success of the product or service?

Category and brand values:

- How does the client define their market category?
- What does the client think the key considerations are for this category?
- What does the client’s brand mean to consumers or customers in the category?
Given the current brand and category, how open to new products or services might the current consumer base be?
- How are consumers and customers using the client’s product or service? What are the key consumer or customer problems that the product solves?
- What are the underlying consumer or customer insights that form the basis for the product or service?

My final area of questioning is around the current Offering and Competitors:

Technologies, performance, value and context:

- What technologies and capabilities are key to the client’s current competitive position?
- Which areas of product or service performance are currently most important to consumers and customers?
- What is the current pricing structure?
- Are there critical considerations which might limit innovation such as surrounding infrastructure and large capital investments either by the client or their partners?

The competition:

- Who is the main competitor?
- Which competitor has the best-in-class performance?
- Is there a key limitation which all products in the category suffer from?
- Is there any competitor IP or other prior art which might limit future innovation?

I’ve found this discussion guide to provide a very effective foundation for innovation. Due to the broad scope of the format, it brings out a comprehensive picture of the total innovation territory. It has often sparked some very useful discussion and has even generated fresh insights for the client.

inspired from:
- Integrated Product Development & innovation training at Prasetya Mulya
- cocatalyst.com

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