Using Independent Innovation Partners to Vet New Ideas

by Bill Weber


If you’ve ever been a vice president at a large company, you will immediately recognize the story I am about to tell. You’re sitting at your desk late on a Friday afternoon working feverishly on a project that absolutely must be completed soon if your company is going to hit its quarterly numbers. It’s important work, and you’re glad to be doing it even if the pressure is intense. A shadow darkens your door. It’s your boss, and she says something like this, “I was just talking to the CEO, and we have a pretty interesting idea for a new product.”

You know the company needs new ideas, and getting the opportunity to work on one is exciting. “Sounds interesting,” you say, “What is it?” Your boss explains the potential product and then tells you why she came to you with it: “The CEO and I would love it if you could do an analysis of this idea in the next month or so. Not too much detail, of course. Just some market projections, competitor info, timelines. Stuff like that. Sound good?”

Your heart sinks. You really want to do this work, but where are you going to find the time to do it right? Well . . . you’re a person who get things done, and you’ll find the time one way or another. You hope. “I’d love to work on this,” you say, “I may stop by with some questions next week, but I’ll get right on it.” Your boss nods happily and heads home for the weekend. Now what?

New Idea TreeOn the surface, you have only one choice: work nights and weekends, neglect some of your primary responsibilities and draft some of your best team-members to help, pulling them off tasks that are actually making money for the company right now. And then there are the less obvious pitfalls:

  • The information you need to gather demands multi-functional points of view; do you have the right contacts in other departments to help with the analysis and will they have the time/desire to work on your project?
  • The product is new—maybe a breakthrough innovation—and no one in the company has any experience with the target market; how do you make sure you cover all your bases when you are researching something you know nothing about?
  • You have no idea who the competitors are in the space or whether they have patents you should be worried about.
  • The CFO is going to want assurances that developing the product is going to yield enough revenue to make it worthwhile; how are you going to get that kind of information?
  • Both your boss and the CEO seem to think this is a great idea; do you need to worry about their reaction if your research turns up big problems?

The more you think about it, the more challenging the task appears. Assuming some people in other departments will contribute their expertise, you know you and your team, working together, can come close to answering the questions your boss asked, but how good will the information be? Will you have confidence in your answer? How will the project impact the deliverables you already have on your plate?

You need another way of attacking the problem, and—thankfully—there is another choice: hire an independent expert in Front End Innovation like iP2Biz to give you and your CEO an unbiased, outside opinion about the idea. We call these projects an Opportunity Assessment, and we take only 30-40 days to deliver a rapid, professional analysis of your idea with supporting data that can lead directly to sound decisions. Your team will remain focused on what they do best and you will occasionally get to spend time at home on the weekend. That’s a good outcome for everyone.

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