The topic of business innovation can be confusing. One of the key contributors to this confusion is the often-subjective nature of perceptions around innovation itself. Apple inventing a buttonless mouse is considered by some as innovative, and others iterative. While we need to respect people’s opinions, we also need a way to categorize ideas objectively in order to discuss and drive ideas which are truly innovative.
We see innovation being the result of ideas which have an impact on a business and it’s customers. User adoption is can be seen as a precursor to impact on business and revenue, and user-centric impact is often given a higher priority, usually with ease-of-use, speed, cost and time-saving being the contributing factors.
So, how can we identify user needs to create ideas with impact? An Opportunity Scoring methodology allows us to rate user needs by importance and satisfaction. The more important a need, and lower the satisfaction, the bigger the opportunity. So we can combine classic research techniques with opportunity scoring and Design Thinking to get ourselves a simple innovation process which you can use today.
1. Select a challenge space
Based on your business vision and goals, select a space in which you are looking for opportunities for new products and services. The wider your space, the longer it may take to identify; too narrow, and you may limit your number of opportunities. Selecting your current industry can be a good starting place, such as Health and Wellness, Food and Drink, Finance. Alternatively if you are industry-agnostic, you could pick a trend which applies to multiple industries, like time or cost saving. For this example we will use Health and Wellness.
2. Empathize to gather real pain points
Use primary research techniques to interview a diverse range of users. Ask questions related to your selected space and their daily lives, such as “What kind of health and wellness challenges do you face?” Then dig into each answer using the Five Whys or Pain Funnel techniques to get to the root human need. A user might say, “I want to run all year round.” You can ask, “Why is being able to run in winter important to you?” List and organize their pain points (needs) into a single condensed list.
Once you feel confident you’ve collected significant pain points within your opportunity space, create a survey. Re-word each pain point into a question, and allow users to rate the importance and satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 5. You could write a survey questions as, “How important to you is running in winter?” and “How satisfied are you currently with your ability to run in winter?”
3. Define your top opportunities
After all the results come in, you should have a large set of data to sift through. Spreadsheet formulas or other survey tools are your friends here. Aggregate scores for each pain point, so you have combined Importances and Satisfaction scores. Pain points which score high on importance and low on satisfaction generally represent areas of opportunity. From your list of opportunities, sort them by score and pick from the top.
4. Generate lots of ideas
Turn the opportunity into a “How might we” question in order to get the ideas flowing. In our case, if “running in winter” was the top opportunity, we could say: “How might we help people run in winter?” For variety, have a diverse set of participants generate ideas onto Post-it Notes.
5. Select ideas
Group the Post-Its by similarity and use dotmocracy voting to select a few to be turned into enriched ideas. Enriched ideas need a name, description and an illustration to facilitate idea-sharing. You can also use idea prioritization frameworks such as RICE or evidence scoring to help select which ideas to focus your energy on.
6. Validate ideas
List out the assumptions on which your idea is based. Group them into desirability, viability and feasibility assumptions and order by how risky each one is to success. You can then use evidence scoring to continuously measure confidence of your ideas as you iterate the validation process.
Take your enriched ideas back to your interview participants and ask them what they think about each. Get feedback to tweak or pivot your ideas. If needed, develop a prototype to help communicate how the idea would actually work in practice.
Estimate what time and resources the idea would take to create, and potential revenue generated from the idea. You can use Lean Business Canvases to quickly iterate through the key areas, using Fermi estimation to approximate each one.
Once users have given your idea a thumbs-up, and your proposed business model has been validated from a costs vs. revenue perspective, you will also need to check how it will be achieved in more detail. This could involve talking to specialists and technologists, even building a functional prototype to garner buy-in and raise any potential issues early. This is where a creative technology team can really shine.
7. Visualize and communicate concepts
At this point, you should have a certain degree of confidence in your concept. You can present a sizzle-version of your concept to a wider audience without fear of critics poking holes. You should have confidence that the need is real, the idea is right, the business can work and it’s possible to execute on.