Innovation Operations: Iterate
In 2021, Insight Partners published a four-part toolkit for running a successful, innovative operation– taking a new idea from inspiration to operation. The toolkit outlines how the simple act of coming up with a new idea is only just the beginning of running a lucrative business process and how many organizations fail to embed innovation throughout their culture and workflows.
We can identify the four steps within the kit as ideate, iterate, communicate, and operate. The original introduction to Innovation Operations can be found here. This article is part one of our four-part series that goes into detail on each step in the chain.
In the first deep dive of this series on Ideation, we focused on pure inspiration and idea generation, deliberately aiming to foster a long list of ideas without triaging them. In the second step of the Innovation Operation chain, we will consider how to Iterate.
With iteration, we want to triage, prosecute, qualify, scope, and refine all of the ideas we have generated.
The critical mindset is one of infidelity. We should not be wedded or committed to any one idea over another – and we need to accept that many decent ideas will be discarded along the way. Being a little heartless about which ideas “win” carefully nourishes an innovative culture. The quality bar for any individual idea is lower, and everyone on the team will be encouraged to try rather than wait for the “perfect” idea before speaking.
Which ideas will survive beyond the “iterate” stage? This is partly down to your individual company and the problem you are solving.
Are you looking for rapid ways to acquire users, or do you need to make a process more efficient to improve customer satisfaction?
- Each of these problems would lead you to a different prioritization framework and set of success metrics against which potential ideas can be measured.
Perhaps you are interested in generating ideas to benefit myriad business outcomes.
- In this case, a classic Importance Difficulty 2x2 matrix might be the best aid in prioritizing your list of ideas.
Remember that not all ideas are created equal, and you should be expecting a subset of suggestions to emerge as the highest potential.
Deprioritize others, though do not forget them, and deliberately set them aside until a later date.
Set the expectation with your team that running a successful innovation operation is about filling the top of the funnel with ideas and graduating them through stages – not coming up with one immaculate suggestion that is ready to launch.
When you have a shortlist of prioritized, high-potential ideas, you are ready to qualify and refine the suggestions. You are now looking to understand, with the resources available, which solution will deliver the highest value. Be inspired by great businesses throughout history that evolved or pivoted based on success to date:
- From its founding as a transport company, American Express realized that its most valuable contribution could be in personal consumer finance.
Many other global brands have iterated by doubling down on their strengths. Your innovation process may generate a basket of different ideas that are most potently delivered in combination – move from theory to operation and establish the path to impact. For this, you are going to need some more information:
- Let’s say you are focusing on market data of the number of customers your proposed solution could reach, or growth trends in the new geography you are considering.
- Data can be qualitative – you can conduct some in-depth interviews with trusted customers to capture their insights on how best to launch a new product or a focus group with target users who will debunk a myth on the effectiveness of a proposed feature.
In all cases, you are testing and refining your hypothesis on how the idea will positively impact your organization while gathering input on how to introduce it most successfully.
The Iterate stage of an effective Innovation Operation may also include a pilot or soft launch of the newly generated idea. Consider ways that you can test and strengthen the proposal before moving to a full launch. This could be a trial with a subset of customers or an introductory offer. The stage should allow you to design an experiment that will catch weaknesses in the plan before any public or scale announcement.
An initial pilot or test phase will enable you to gather the proof points that will form the basis of your communication internally and externally.
We will cover the Communicate phase of the Innovation journey in our next post in the series.