3 steps to fast, efficient innovation
The most efficient way to grow plants is to sow far more seeds than you need. You weed out the weak ones as they shoot, and again as they start to grow. At each stage you select the best specimens and put the rest on the compost heap to feed next season’s crop. After a month or two you’ve got the right number of strong, vibrant plants.
It’s the same for innovation. The chances of you getting things right first time are slim, so stack the odds in your favour – work up lots of alternatives, then quickly narrow down to the ones with the greatest potential. Innovation is a numbers game, so try as much as you can for as little as possible. Here are the three rules of rapid innovation:
One end, many means: Never confuse the opportunity with the solutions you’ve tried. I recently worked with a business that had dismissed a high value opportunity because the one product they’d launched at it had failed. In one afternoon a small group of sales people and design engineers came up with seven new ways to tackle the opportunity, two of which are now vying for launch funding. Which babies have you thrown out with the bathwater?
Fast, cheap prototypes: Getting real prototypes in front of real customers is invaluable - nothing compares to holding, smelling and using something in real life. That might mean an investment in tools: 3D printers are the new must-have for product companies. But most of the time, you don’t need to be that sophisticated. When Priya Lakhani was creating Masala Masala she made up A-boards and batches of curry and stood in St Pancras station asking people what they thought. How fast are you getting your new stuff in front of real people?
Listen and react: One business I worked with was testing two new service formats: one more radical than the other. The radical one struggled and got negative feedback from day one, but rather than adapting, the test team continued to measure exactly how badly it was failing. When I was asked to run a review, the radical sites were close to mutiny, yet once we fed in a few simple changes, all suggested by the site managers, the radical group began to quickly outperform the more conservative set. How quickly can you change your design based on live feedback from the field?
BOTTOM LINE: Get plenty of alternatives, put your favourites in front of people as early as possible, focus in on those with real potential, and be prepared to rapidly re-design them based on what you hear.
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