Ways of Looking for and Developing InnovationsOn June 22, the Wall Street Journal published an article by John Bessant (Imperial College Business School, London), Kathrin Möslein (School of Business and Economics, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany), and Bettina von Stamm (Innovation Leadership Forum, England) outlining nine ways organizations can go about developing ideas for innovative products and services.
The nine approaches Bessant, Möslein, and von Stamm describe are:
- Building scenarios "imagine detailed opportunities and threats" for your organization.
- Soliciting ideas on the Web InnoCentive.com is an example of "a site where people and companies look for help in solving scientific and business challenges." Another is BMW's "Virtual Innovation Agency" site, bmwgroup.com/via.
- Enlisting lead users Lead users "tend to be people working in or using products in a specific market who are frustrated by the tools, goods or services currently available and yearn for something better." Bessant, Möslein, and von Stamm cite the example of surgeons offering ideas for altering products so that they better fit the surgeons' needs. Another example is the BBC's site for lead users, Backstage.bbc.co.uk.
- Doing a "deep dive" This is the ethnographic approach that I've seen getting increasing attention. It involves "market research that uses detailed, firsthand observation to learn more about consumers' needs or wants."
- Experimenting Bessant, Möslein, and von Stamm call this "probe and learn." Your organization undertakes "actively experimenting with new ideas in a new context." The new context is a segment of a market where you are not currently active or strong. The intended outcome of your experiments is insight concerning what this segment finds valuable now, or is likely to find valuable in the foreseeable future.
- Getting ideas from employees "For example, the duties of procurement, sales or finance groups can be expanded to include learning about trends they encounter that ordinarily might be considered not of primary interest to the company."
- Catering to internal entrepreneurs Some companies, such as 3M and Google, "reserve blocks of time for scientists or engineers [or other employees] to explore their own ideas." Bessant, Möslein, and von Stamm add, "It helps to have an established pathway to make sure the best new ideas get taken forward."
- Getting departments talking to each other An approach many companies find effective is setting up communities of practice.
- Promoting diversity One approach is to "seek innovation partners with whom [you] wouldn't normally work." Another very important approach is to recruit employees with different life experiences and perspectives.