Best practices of successful innovation (2)

Why are some companies better at innovation than others? In this article, I'll show you how to improve your performance on the basis of 8 steps to successful innovation. Research has shown that many best practices are known that you can take advantage of. Last week I discussed steps 1 to 4, see this one link. The product development process is particularly central in this second part.

What lessons can we learn from outperformers in the field of innovation? These are the steps you should take.

  1. Determine a clear innovation strategy

  2. Check whether the corporate culture is in line with this strategy

  3. Provide ideas… lots of ideas

  4. Choose the best ideas

  5. Test it with your customers

  6. Use a custom product development process

  7. Don't forget the launch plan

  8. Learn from your mistakes

In this blog I discuss steps 5 to 8.

5. Test it with your customers

There are too many examples of failed product introductions. In this link 25 product flops you will find some excellent examples of how it works CANNOT must. I've always been in favor of testing as early as possible. Since I started to delve more into LeanStartup (Eric Ries), that has only grown.

In fact, you don't need much to test. Using the LeanStartup method, you start by interviewing customers to test whether the problems for which you think you have a solution actually exist. This is called a problem interview. If it then turns out that the problem is actually a problem (hooray!), You will test whether the solution you have in mind meets the customer's needs. This is called a solution interview. After several more validations, a minimum product is delivered, the so-called minimum viable product (MVP). I personally think they have this one minimum likeable product should mention, because you're going to try and sell this to customers, and you're only making a first impression. Naturally, this MVP will also be extensively tested and discussed.

lean startup

The starting point of Lean StartUp is that you learn. And you do that by testing.

The best companies test more often. They use 'voice of the customer' research, visit customers and do beta tests. It is important not only to test the design or functionality, but also whether there is actually a need for it. And, if there is a new product category under the same brand, is there a match with the current brand?


6. Use a custom product development process

stage gate

Product development or innovation should be seen as normal business processes that can be structured. A traditional product development process consists of stages (internships): idea generation, scope definition, business case, development, testing & validation, launch. Before moving on to the next phase, formal approval must be given (gate) based on predetermined criteria.

The best companies use cross-functional NPD processes (67% versus 41.8% of the other companies). The bigger best companies do this even more often than the smaller ones (77% vs 57%) This process is not a straightforward process, sometimes you go back one or more steps because you learn and some things are worked on simultaneously. This is expressed in the vortex from the picture of This method is also called 'waterfall'.


Many other methods have become popular in recent years. The question now is when which method is suitable. This is shown in a simplified manner in the figure below.

When both the customer needs and the solution have a high degree of uncertainty, Lean StartUp combined with an Agile delivery method is suitable. This usually concerns fairly radical or disruptive innovations. If the customer needs and solution direction are reasonably known, Agile can be used. With the short-cycle Agile delivery process, progress can be made quickly. However, it is important to involve the customer as a 'stakeholder'. If the solution is known, as well as the customer's needs, the traditional 'waterfall' method is suitable. The horizontal axis shows that the degree of innovation is somewhat lower here, so this method is particularly suitable for incremental innovations. This is of course a simplification of reality.

For each situation it will be necessary to consider which method is suitable for your company.

 7. Don't forget the launch plan

If you want to launch successfully, you also need a launch plan. Thorough planning is necessary: ​​where do I launch, is distribution well organized, can I scale up quickly, is there enough stock, what is the right price, are examples of things to consider. All departments need to focus on their part of the launch plan and you need an evaluation framework. Too often objectives are formulated in advance that are never measured afterwards. How do you know if you are successful or not? You must therefore determine on which Key Performance Indicators you want to monitor.

The best companies use customer evaluation tools such as discussion forums, wikis, ratings and reviews, and innovation hubs significantly more than the rest.


 8. Learn from your mistakes

Finally, learn from your mistakes as an organization. You can learn from all the products and services you offer, even if they are at different stages of their product life cycle. What works, what doesn't work, what have we forgotten, what would have made it easier, what could we do better?

A good way to examine current products and services is to map the customer journey.

In a customer journey or customer journey process, you follow the customer's journey within and outside the organization. You learn to see what the customer does and experiences during orientation, buying and using a product or service. When is the customer happy and when does he drop out? You learn to look at your own company from the perspective of the customer. And… you see the points where you can improve in order to serve the customer even better.

Continuous evaluation helps you to own best practices to recognize and to learn from mistakes. It helps you to continuously improve the product development process.

It helps you to become part of the best companies.

[1] Journal of Product Innovation Management, 2013:30(3):408-429

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