Formal Process

Executive Participation in Front End Innovation

by Bill Weber

As we said in an earlier post, you don’t have to change your culture, change your processes or change your organization to innovate; all you need to do is take your existing team, your existing processes and add Front End Innovation (FEI) discipline. The key question an executive needs to consider in this context is how much of Front End success is dependent on their involvement. The short answer is: a lot. Continue reading “Executive Participation in Front End Innovation” »

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Can’t Figure Out Why Your Revenue Is Falling? Call an Independent Expert

by Bill Weber

If your revenue is falling, it’s bad. If you don’t know why, it’s worse, especially since there are only two possible causes:

  • Your company is executing badly, or
  • There are things going on in the market you don’t understand, and these unknown things are stealing your business.

We’ve recently had several Fortune 500 clients experience this issue with isolated product lines. These are accomplished, efficient companies. Execution wasn’t the problem. So they took a look at their traditional competitors and found no recent innovations in products or business models that changed the competitive landscape. Further, there were no external forces they could discern that would explain decreasing demand for their products. Yet their product-line revenue was declining. To their credit, this set off warning bells for their executives, and they turned to us for assistance. Continue reading “Can’t Figure Out Why Your Revenue Is Falling? Call an Independent Expert” »

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Harnessing the Power of Front End Innovation

By Bill Weber

In our last two posts, we described why it is that you can’t engineer disruption and how to distinguish Sustaining, Breakthrough and Disruptive Innovations. Given that iP2Biz partners with large companies to help them develop and execute their innovation agendas, the natural question is, “If you can’t engineer Disruption (and Breakthrough Innovation is hard), why even bother?” It’s a good question with a simple answer: if you run your company as you always have and learn to harness the power of Front End Innovation, you can dramatically increase the odds of capturing both Breakthrough and Disruptive Innovations. Continue reading “Harnessing the Power of Front End Innovation” »

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The Innovation Logjam

“Innovation is currently a wildly popular, multi-faceted word in business circles. Seeking out new ideas that can be quickly brought to market for profit is as old as commerce, and the realities of our borderless, globalized world requires constant vigilance to stay ahead of competitors.” (Oliver Marks, ZDNet, 2012) So why do many Senior Executives feel that their company’s internal innovation and technology management efforts fall short? Why do many Senior Executives feel good ideas or the creation of compelling intellectual property to drive innovation in product development are not sufficiently supported or prioritized internally? Why is an internal innovation logjam hampering growth and competitiveness?

The Innovation Logjam exists due to many reasons. Some reasons include a lack of methodology of how to manage the creative process at the Front End and how to encourage creative innovation to include rejection of bad ideas with sound analysis. The Innovation logjam is further fueled by a lack of knowledge in how to embrace external technology and independent points of view to break down preconceived notions. Lack of management support for the need to manage innovation before the formal product development process is another reason for the Innovation logjam.

The currently popular Stage Gate Process for Product Development exists to define innovative product opportunities, risks, dependencies, and key elements of success. However, in an attempt to tightly manage the delivery of innovative products to market, the Stage Gate Process may have created a barrier to innovation. A collaborative process at the Front End of Innovation, before the formal Stage Gate process, allows for the inclusion of technology that exists externally from the corporation but is critical to innovation success. Collaborative efforts help to break down the rigidity inherent to the Stage Gate process and break out of the Innovation Logjam.

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Are you ready for the Formal Process?

There are several key concepts that a team must understand before their corporation is ready for the Formal Process, and innovation is arguably the most important of these concepts. A corporation is not ready for formal development until the value of the innovation is understood. An effective innovation strategy should identify ideas that are easy to conceptualize and process. Breakthrough and disruptive innovations are not easily found, and require advanced understanding of the value proposition through a discovery process that challenges the conventional wisdom of what can be accomplished. This takes commitment to a discovery effort above and beyond what is entailed in a typical sustaining innovation effort.

The innovation process covers all activities from idea evaluation to the creation of a business model, and all of the stages in between. There is an opportunity cost to every stage executed by the corporation. Once resources are allocated, they are not available for other projects unless a different product development is halted.

For potential breakthrough or disruptive innovation, the following points are necessary:

  • an early collaborative approach to understand and define the potential economic value
  • the amount the customer would be willing to pay
  • feasibility of external and internal technology development
  • a potential product/service roadmap
  • competitive alternatives to create a “draft” innovation which ranks the risk reward ratio of the “candidate” innovation

These items provide a conceptual format and perspective on the long term impact to the corporation’s innovative process. Once the “candidate” innovation is adequately described in risk-return and strategic value, a second effort will be necessary to build internal support for insertion into the Formal Process.

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Developing Innovative Product Definitions

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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