(Originally posted on The Innovation Workgroup’s LinkedIn page, 30th June, 2015)
If we want the end of the innovation process to be profitable, we must get the beginning and middle of the innovation process right. World-class innovation is an orderly process. If steps are omitted, or if they are performed in the wrong order, then the results will be suboptimal at best and disastrous at worst.
What is the correct order for successful innovation? Professors Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer have published an article in Harvard Business Review suggesting a four-step process used by start-ups: Insight, Problem, Solution and Business Model. They describe the essence and purpose of each step, and they map a number of approaches to innovation against the process.
The most important lesson from the article is that insight comes first. As I often say, “The value of innovation is not in the idea, it’s in the insight.” Furr and Dyer point out that insights are gained through observation. When companies do not observe their users, customers and other stakeholders, they rarely come up with valuable insights.
Another useful take-away is that insights don’t always lead directly to the best solutions. The authors recommend an intermediate step: identifying the Job To Be Done (JTBD). This element, described by Clayton Christensen, is what the user or customer hopes to achieve by using the solution. In our practice, we call this step defining needs – both voiced and unvoiced.
Finally, Furr and Dyer support the practice of quick, inexpensive prototyping. In software, this may be done through Agile programming, for instance. The authors enumerate four kinds of prototypes: theoretical, virtual, a minimally viable product, and what they call a “minimally awesome product.”
If you’re already following the three steps in the Innovation Workgroup System in order – Discover, Invent, Refine – to innovate in your company, then the conclusions of these writers will confirm that you’re using global best practices. To know more about how to improve your innovation process,
Additional reading on this topic: Choose the Right Innovation Method at the Right Time