Explore the different innovation processes companies use and the phases covered in this course.
- There are many different innovation process that organizations follow. There's no prescriptive one size fits all approach. That's why understanding some of the common approaches, how companies utilize them, and the overlapping phases that they share will help you to execute your own product innovation process. The most common approaches companies use for innovation include components of design thinking, rapid prototyping, lean innovation, and open innovation. Design thinking, popularized by international design firm IDEO, is a process that brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible, and economically viable.
The design thinking process starts with a deep understanding and empathy about the customers' needs. Then, it goes through the steps of defining the problem, ideating the solutions, prototyping the ideas, and testing the ideas. IBM developed an internal framework for innovation, naming it IBM Design Thinking. Within the banking industry, IBM put its clients' needs and experiences first. They worked with the financial firm to set up a conference room that simulated the experience of visiting a financial advisor's office.
Within that simulated setting, the IBM innovation teams observed how actual advisors and customers interacted with technology and each other. The insights led to the design of their next product's customer experience. The second approach is rapid prototyping. It can run solo, but it's also part of the design thinking and lean innovation models. It focuses in on the fail early and fail often mindset, and it encourages rapid prototypes. When combined with design thinking methodology, a newer process is born, lean innovation.
Lean innovation, popularized by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank, enables companies to quickly and with fewer resources, develop, prototype, learn, validate, and improve business solutions. In an effort to eliminate bureaucratic restrictions, lean processes focus on enabling teams to reduce waste and make incremental improvements. Adobe, a software company, leverages lean methodologies through their Kickbox tool. Designed as an innovation in a box solution, the Kickbox gives Adobe employees $1,000 to fund an idea, and the tools to help execute the innovation process.
A popular solution internally, the software giant made it open sourced, so any company or person can use it. Open innovation is another model developed by UC Berkeley professor Henry Chesbrough. The concept is made up of two facets. The first is the outside in aspect, which encourages companies to acquire external ideas and technologies, and bring them into the organization. The second is the inside out component, where internally developed innovation, which does not fit the company's business model, are allowed to go outside, to be incorporated into other companies' innovation process.
NASA successfully utilized open innovation's outside in approach to build medical kits for future manned missions. Collaborating with Topcoder, Harvard Business School, and the London Business School, NASA presented the teams a problem of needing to create a mathematical algorithm that would determine the optimal content for the medical kits. Winners were offered cash prizes, as well as a seat at future mission launches. Utilizing open innovation, NASA found cost and time effective solutions that could not have been obtained without external partners.
These approaches and innovation models may all go by different names, but when looking at how each process is used for innovation, you will find similarities and overlap. Rather than following a specific model, I highlight components from each, and break it down into four common phases that are found in most innovation processes. Preparation and discovery, creating ideas, testing and prototyping, and launching and scaling. As a product leader, know that these phases are nonlinear. You may find yourself going back and forth between phases iterating as you go along.
But following a process is what makes innovation work. It adds business disciplines, and requires a scalable, replicable approach.
- What product innovation is and isn't
- Mapping your product innovation portfolio
- How business objectives set the stage for innovation
- Identifying the right problems
- Human-centered and data-centered innovation
- Exploring the ideation phase
- Effective testing and prototyping
- Launching and scaling