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Great Ideas Are the Fuel of Successful Innovation

Coming up with great ideas must be a priority for companies who want to launch a continuous stream of successful new products. The better the ideas, the more likely your innovation engine will crank out winning new products.

Idea generation (ideation) is an ongoing process that needs to be designed and managed to consistently create great results. The discovery, cultivation and selection of ideas should not be left to chance and random “ah-ha” moments.

To be consistent at discovering great ideas, we need to know:

• Where to look (strategic direction: where to play and how to win). • What to look for (important jobs people want to get done). • How to discover and cultivate promising ideas from raw inputs into winning product concepts (an idea-to-launch framework).

Idea Exploration: Drilling for great ideas

An analogy I like to use is from the petroleum industry where they need to drill for and refine crude oil into petroleum products (e.g. gas, and heating oil). The petroleum industry doesn’t randomly drill wells around the globe in search of promising oil fields. It employs a sophisticated exploration process that identifies potential areas where it is likely to find underground oil and gas reserves.

Once a potential target oil field is identified, several test wells are sunk to verify the targeted field contains acceptable grade oil (desirability), that can be extracted economically (feasibility) and is of sufficient size to make the drilling venture profitable (viability).

A petroleum company would never dream of setting up an oil production field without first testing the commercial viability of the oil field under exploration. Nor should you when it comes to moving an idea into commercial development.

Ideation is an important process that makes or breaks your future

Your ideation process needs the same attention to the upfront exploration and validation process as the petroleum industry It makes no sense in exploring ideas that have no potential commercial success (commercial viability). Nor trying to develop a product around an idea (e.g. a problem) no one cares about (desirability).

Nor committing to a development project that is outside your current and near term capabilities (feasibility).

Initial ideas are never fully formed and ready for commercialization

Like the petroleum industry, the initial ideas you uncover will be in a raw or crude state. They require refinement and experimentation before they become solid product concepts (refined ideas) that have the potential economic impact (high octane if you will) to fuel you innovation and product development engine.

The long and the short: No matter how good your innovation and product development processes are, if you feed it poor ( low octane) ideas, the innovation engine will sputter and not provide the power it needs to develop a commercially successful new product.

Initial ideas are neither good nor bad – they are just ideas

In designing an ideation process, we need to recognize that what often appears initially as a great ideas, is often misguided. And on the flipside, an idea that appears to be a weak and not interesting, can often evolve into a winning new product concept by combining and refining other elements of other ideas into a defining a winning concept.

Thus your ideation process needs to treat all raw ideas without bias. A uniform method of presenting ideas to be evaluated for go/no-go decisions, and a predictable and reliable process to refine, validate and if necessary reject ideas, as they move through the knowledge funnel form crude ideas into high octane ideas.

I recommend adapting a Uniform Concept Statement form to avoid the problem of good ideas being overlooked because they are presented poorly and/or dismissed through biased eyes. And conversely, eliminate weak or marginal ideas that are presented well and selected based on management fiat – not fact.

Initial concept statement should be short, no more than one page, and easy to understand. It should contain the following:

  1. The need/pain or job to be done

  2. People have problems with getting this important job done

  3. The job is described an action verb-> objective of action -> contextual clarifier (see Constructing a “job statement” to focus innovation )

  4. Outcome expectations

  5. Desired outcomes customers want to achieve.

  6. Undesired outcomes customers want to avoid.

  7. Context, circumstances, and challenges in getting the job done with 100% satisfaction

  8. Where, when, who, what, and why, etc.

  9. Barriers: Cost, time, complexity, etc.

The concept statement should be thought as a living document. Starting with the initial raw idea, and transforming and morphing into desirable and viable business opportunity as the idea is vetted and honed through the ideation and discovery process. The desired output is a high-octane product concept worthy of fueling your innovation and product development engine.

In the coming series of articles, we will drill deeper into creating a robust, reliable and predictable innovation front end (ideation and refinement process) that will improve your ability and success rate of identifying real problems that real people want solved.

In the meantime, fill it up with high test please!


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