Great innovation ideas often get killed or die a slow death because they are seen as too risky on one hand, and, on the other, management or internal teams may not feel fully engaged with the idea and become hesitant to move forward. To avoid these pitfalls, it’s important to mitigate risk and reduce costly mistakes by keeping stakeholders engaged throughout the process to gain adoption quickly and smoothly.
Mitigate risk by identifying the right research for your risk level.
The research partner’s role during innovation work is to identify the approach that will deliver the most helpful insights to brand teams and stakeholders. A starting point is to understand the degree of risk in the overall innovation initiative to inform the rigor of the research.
Innovations that involve a close-in product (or service) line extension typically fall in the low-risk range. In this case, stakeholders are already familiar with the category, their company’s technologies, and approval processes, so there are naturally fewer unknown factors that might impact internal decisions. There is less need for rigorous consumer testing, and less effort required from the internal stakeholders, making it easier to move a new innovation in this category to action.
When teams are pursuing transformational innovation or higher risk initiatives, there is a need for more investment of time and broader stakeholder input. These projects require a higher degree of research rigor because of the increased number of unknowns.
What research plan will lead to action, and how do we decide?
Striking the right balance of qualitative and quantitative research throughout the innovation stage gate process is crucial to answering questions your stakeholders might have. Aligning goals and objectives ensures each piece of research helps to identify risks and uncover insights that will ultimately influence and impact a critical business decision.
By identifying the best research approach, a research partner can help a team navigate through a morass of unknowns, reducing risk and uncovering insights to inform development.”
Steps in the Innovation Journey:
During the initial stages of innovation projects, we work closely with teams to gain clarity on where the brand team and stakeholders are on the Innovation Journey. It’s important to identify the right starting point, reach out to stakeholders who need to be included in the process, and establish milestones along the way that will ultimately help the team move quickly to the activation stage.
- Step 1
If the innovation team is not clear about who their target audience is, what their needs are, or how to differentiate the brand, they need to focus on what’s called the fuzzy front end (FFE) of research to develop a clearer view of their target, its needs, and points of difference before they can move to the next step.
- Step 2
If the innovation team is clear on their target, they can move immediately into an Innovation Sprint.™ In the sprint process, the focus is to create the new product or service concepts which then go through multiple phases to iterate and validate, identifying points of risk along the way. This strategic approach combines immersive techniques to sharpen and improve on the core innovation.
For example, if a yogurt company is trying to find new platforms for growth such as Experiential Taste or Enhancing Energy, then they will work in the fuzzy front end to identify these new territories. If the yogurt company is trying to extend platforms it currently has (line extensions), their next step would be to dive directly into an Innovation Sprint.
Inviting stakeholders into the process early is key to successfully actioning the results at the end of the research.
The goal for every innovation initiative is the successful launch of a new product or service. When stakeholders are invited into the process from the preliminary stages of the journey, they feel more invested in the project, and provide critical input. Our research team schedules check-in calls, lunch and learns, or quick insights emails to keep stakeholders informed and involved, and the Radius team provides a dynamic Innovation Playbook to make it seamless to document the process and key findings at each step.
When the research is complete, our team plays a key role in developing research Executive Summaries and report stories to help internal stakeholders understand the findings and their implications, setting the stage to help teams move toward activation.
Eliminating the fear of the unknown clears a path for growth.
Innovation is full of risks and opportunities. By identifying the best research approach, a research partner can help a team navigate through a morass of unknowns, reducing risk and uncovering insights to inform development. The research partner also plays a key role in creating an environment where teams can focus on the research to identify the best opportunities for innovation and move confidently toward activation knowing they’ve developed a thorough view of the opportunity ahead.
Contributors: Shari Aaron, Shayna Beckwith, and Joanne Suh