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Two of the objectives of the ‘definition and business case’ stage in the Formal Innovation process include clearly defining the product to be developed and completing a business plan for the specific product. At the Front End, where ideas take a more conceptual form, a determination needs to be made on the nature of the innovation. The closer a product is to ‘sustaining’ in nature, then the tighter the initial product definition can be because a narrower development may be analyzed and quickly executed upon. The market assumptions made during the concept stage can be systematically verified through additional market research and competitive analysis.

However, in the case of a potential Breakthrough Innovation, improved opportunity for success exists when the product definition idea is more loosely defined. Less definitional rigidity leaves room for creativity and allows for team collaboration and the inclusion of new technology and iterations at the Front End.

A productive innovation process starts with two things:

  1. Goals that are clearly defined along the way as a guideline or “road map to success” and,
  2. Contingencies that are clearly outlined to provide direction for the prescreening of technology and marketing opportunities.

This process will remove some constraints of the Formal Innovation process and allow for a wider “net” of potential alternatives to be evaluated. A more loose strategic innovation analysis at the Front End could even include multiple versions of the product definition scaled to suit several different opportunity types and risk levels.

An innovation process that recognizes the need for differing levels of control that are situational will improve productivity and focus for the entire innovation effort.

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