Innovation Series: #6
[May 4, 2021] by Kathy Scott, PhD, and Bridget Sarikas
Getting to the finish line
Because our world has changed so significantly over the past several months, we all need to be innovators to some degree, challenging the past based on our new reality, and finding ways to improve our personal and professional lives as we move forward.
This blog series is geared to individuals who want to do just that – innovate in small and large ways to move beyond the status quo and create a better place to live, lead and work. It involves getting your head in the right place – exploring a new logic and developing an innovator’s mindset in your ever-changing world. It also requires stepping out with the courage and the will to establish your personal credibility in the workplace, paving the way. This journey of innovation continues as you find the right-sized problem in the workplace that is creating enough pain to warrant the time and energy to find an innovative solution. This is where the creativity process truly begins – coming up with multiple possible solutions to a problem, narrowing down the possibilities to those with the greatest potential, and then moving forward into the enhancement phase.
And our last blog in this series takes you to the final phase of getting your solution to the innovation finish line.
So Many Opportunities
The disruption from all-things COVID has brought many significant problems and opportunities for innovators to explore. It has resulted in an innovative spirit throughout the land, with a greater willingness to move away from the status quo and find happier, healthier, easier ways of living and working. Take advantage of this time as you move your solutions forward. Surround yourself with people who have been on this journey too. Find a network of support to help you stay on track and emotionally manage through this process. This is your time!
Testing - Start Small and Stay Flexible
Testing your prototype or solution is an iterative process. The idea is to start small and build your momentum as you learn more about the solution you are testing. This learning comes from involving neutral people in your testing process – people who were not involved in the development of your solution. The goal is to test the essential elements of your solution through observing how the end-user interacts with the solution. This testing will enhance your understanding of the desirability, viability, and feasibility of your innovation.
This is the perfect time for an acronym! So think of this as a PLAN – DO – STUDY – ACT process (or P.D.S.A. cycle) that is repeated several times as you improve your prototype. This experiential learning starts with the development of your overall testing plan (PLAN), followed by implementing the test with small groups of people as you observe them interacting with your solution (DO).
Ask the test participants simple and open questions that begin with the word “why” to better understand their experience from their perspective. Don’t worry – we humans love offering our opinions – especially when asked - so ask away! You may ask others to observe along with you or even record the sessions to better understand the nuances (STUDY). Let the test persons think aloud while you resist the urge to interrupt, agree with, or steer them in a specific direction. Stay open. Stay curious. Don’t try to sell your solution, as tempting as this may be. Document the tests and your observations each time.
Schedule enough time after each test to integrate the findings into a revised prototype (ACT) until you are satisfied that you have a viable solution to your problem. Just keep reminding yourself – practice makes perfect!
Develop Your Business Case
Now it is time to craft your business case. There are many online templates you can take advantage of to help you quickly put together your business case. In a nutshell, the templates will walk you through the development of a business case, putting all your work-to-date together with some additional information to create a succinct document that helps you move your solution forward. In other words – find a guide to guide you. The following are a few of the core components you will need to address:
The Problem – Clearly define the problem you are solving.
The Solution - Outline the solution you are proposing.
Existing Alternatives – Document your research on what is already out there to address the problem in full or in part.
Customer Segments – Describe the types of people that are having the problem and will need, want, and/or benefit from your solution.
The Unique Value Proposition – Describe the compelling value your solution will bring to a potential customer/user. Consider the gaps in the existing alternatives as you do this.
The Cost structure – Identify the fixed and variable costs of your solution/product and related services.
The Revenue Streams – Identify how revenue is generated by your solution and related services and how you intend to price your solution.
You are now at the innovation finish line; you need to take a moment to celebrate! It is quite the achievement to get your solution from a hopeful idea, just a twinkle in your eye, to a real solution that is desirable, viable, and feasible. High five for all that blood, sweat, and tears!!
As you move forward into the marketing, funding, and implementation work, use your business case to help create a compelling pitch or elevator speech to inform and energize potential customers, investors and/or organizational decision makers as you share your unique value proposition. Whether you’re an employee of a company moving your innovation forward within the company (an intrapreneur), or an entrepreneur venturing out into your own business, it is critical to get help from people with expertise to protect your intellectual property, get funding and move your solution forward. You don’t need to go it alone! Consider a successful entrepreneur, investor, or organizational decision-maker with an interest in your work. And…never underestimate the value of a mentor to help you on your journey.
"My girlfriend thought I'd never be able to make a car out of spaghetti… You should've seen her face when I drove pasta!"
Lewrick, M., Link, P. & Leifer, L. (2018). The designing thinking playbook: Mindful digital transformation of teams, services, businesses, and ecosystems. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.