How many of your company’s ideas are stuck? How often does the exuberance of ideation become the fatigue of realization? We often see this. Great ideas turn into great innovations, but if they do not address an immediate and apparent market need, they are allowed to atrophy “in the lab”.
Not too long ago, one of our clients in the chemical industry had this exact problem. Their R&D team had developed a promising technology, but it couldn’t find a viable market, and now the business had lost interest.
We were asked to help. We know how to put energy back into a stalled innovation. Like 3M’s post-it notes, we know that often great technologies are invented with a specific application in mind, get stuck, and then become successful in a different application. Our job was to help our client with innovation renewal.
Finding an Application for the Technology
Strategos accepted the technology then worked with the client through the following iterative steps to adapt the technology to a customer-centric application. In the end, this process gave the R&D team a fresh story to create buy-in from their business colleagues.
1. Diverge – explore all opportunities
The first step was to imagine using the technology in a broad range of applications in different industries. To do this exercise, we asked the team to deconstruct the technology into its attributes and associated benefits. This exercise sparked participants to list numerous customer applications that could benefit from this technology.
2. Converge – prioritize your first opportunity
With a rich pool of ideas on the table, we helped narrow the candidates by asking, “What does an attractive idea look like”. Then, the team used the following criteria to choose the opportunity that aligned with the strategy and goals of the business:
- Potential to solve an important problem for a customer/industry.
- Potential to boost revenue or margin for the customer.
- Access to the customer, e.g., do business with them today.
- Growth potential of the industry sector.
Then, we added the following: “Your excitement and willingness to invest in this yourself.” This final criterion tested the team’s commitment and perseverance. This convergence let the team get to about five high probability ideas to continue to elaborate and identify assumptions and knowledge gaps.
3. Find innovation at the level of the business model
Next, we had the team work the ideas against their business model. Essential questions, in rank order, are:
- Who are the customers for the application?
- Can we produce, deliver, and service the application?
- Will the application be profitable?
4. Test the value proposition
The team then clearly articulated the value proposition around each application’s uniqueness, importance, competitive advantages, and potential for growth and profitability. But we know from history that even great technologies are no guarantee for success. Look at Google Glasses or further back the Iridium satellite phone and Betamax.
Now had a rich story to tell, but it was still only a hypothesis. They needed to test the most critical assumptions to reduce technology, market, and commercial risk. During experimentation, the team got as close as possible to customers and real situations. This provided further insights that the team used to finetune the applications to make a difference.
At this stage, the team had re-engaged the business and got a “go” decision for in-market testing to define how the application could be scaled to grow the business.
Many companies in B2B face the challenge of having great technology innovations that stall and never get out the door. Businesses waste time and resources when ideas get stuck in the innovation process on their way to being shelved forever. Over the years, we have used our tools and methods to leverage existing technologies, commercialize them and grow the business.