Disrupt or be disrupted

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In an ever-shifting environment, it’s vital that companies keep pace with changing customers, competitors and technology if they are to withstand the threat from agile startups that can move quickly. Key to this is finding and launching new propositions or improving on existing ones, yet achieving this in a Big Business scenario is challenging, from thinking about where to find inspiration for new ideas to knowing which idea to get behind. To help businesses slice through the challenges successfully and establish a framework that answers those big, complex briefs, marketing director at 383 Project, Dan Archer, walks us through the key steps for  creating, validating, prototyping and launching new propositions. 

Finding and launching new propositions within big business is hard, from thinking about where to find inspiration for new ideas to knowing which idea to place a bet behind. But by working through a four-stage process that navigates the creation, validation, prototyping and launch phases of a new proposition, companies large and small can discover the path that has the best odds. However, the path which takes into account the fact that speed is of the essence is the one that will most likely direct a business towards success. There’s no room for sitting on laurels when it does to innovation: you can either disrupt or be disrupted. 

Before jumping headfirst into the process however, it’s important to understand where your company’s challenges lie when it comes to generating and launching new propositions. Some of the most common hurdles include: 

  • Navigating the internal red tape and sign off processes – they can slow the process down so much that nothing gets through.
  • Thinking outside of traditional limits – a struggle that large companies face when their innovation capabilities are constrained to only a known space.
  • Discerning how much effort to invest – identifying the right idea is hard enough but quantifying the investment needed to secure validation and further investment is uncomfortable terrain for most.
  • In order to get to market quickly, it’s crucial to identify and remove such restrictions and blockers along the way. Here are some of the biggest checkpoints to consider to help you innovate at scale.

The team

Creating the right team is the first vital step forward. With established customer bases, big businesses need the right teams on-board to ensure the efficient delivery of service is maintained. Developing a core cross-functional team that spans IT, marketing, sales, legal and customer-facing divisions will help a company to achieve this, and at the same time will also engender agile conditions that are desirable for the cultivation of fast thinking and decision making. 

In large companies, working in a cross-functional team can be alien for some, so identify those who are often first to bring ideas to the table but are frustrated by lagging processes; in addition to caring deeply about innovation they will also bring self-motivation and organisation to the team. 

Be sure to pick out a captain too – someone who can make executive decisions, take the input of others on-board, have a natural sense of balance, be a customer champion and a strong communicator to the rest of the business. 

The ideation

The best ideas are those that are commercially viable and provide the level of return that keeps stakeholders happy. They’re also the ones that resonate most with the customers. Therefore, kick-start your ideation phase by looking to your customers for Inspiration.

There’s no exact science, but it makes commercial sense to initially look at your current product/service: take a breadth of data sources to map out frictions that can be solved. Using a Jobs To Be Done methodology, identify the jobs that people are trying to get done and map which of these are being met, versus those that remain unmet – this could present an opportunity to meet by creating a proposition around the friction. Cast the net even wider and you can look to adjacent areas which complement or dovetail in to your service. 

Even with these opportunities making themselves visible, knowing which one to take forward is not something that can be left to gut feelings. By ranking each idea against a set of criteria, such as potential audience size and technological limitations, it’s possible to derive an estimation of how much of a commercial return they could generate. A system like this won’t discount ideas necessarily, rather, they’ll flag any gaps that will need further development. 

The fast track sprint

Once the ideas – which should fall in line with the needs that are unique to your business and stakeholders – are ranked, then a clearer picture will come into view. And as long as the idea genuinely solves a customer need and there’s a viable business model, the ‘Fast Track’ sprint can begin.

The purpose of a design thinking sprint – which should take no more than a five-day period – is to take the ideas, work them into a number of concepts, and turn them into propositions that can be put in front of users for validation and iteration. The proposition at the end of the sprint will only be partially validated due to the feedback from users being limited, but it will be enough to either secure further investment or move you into the prototyping phase. 

The prototype sprint

In order to achieve wider feedback, the next step is to create a version of a digital product or service that allows articulation of a vision of the full product. Learning is a key element of this stage, and there’s 7 major ground rules to remember: 

  1. This isn’t the only opportunity to build the product
  2. It isn’t possible to answer everything
  3. The experience doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be good enough that users will actively engage
  4. A feature is critical if it accurately answers an assumption
  5. It’s OK if you end up throwing away all of the development when the full version is created
  6. Failure is fine, providing we’re learning
  7. Pivot an idea or kill it completely, but don’t suffer from ‘sunk cost syndrome’

Product sprints

With a sense of certainty established – in terms of the direction of the product – the door to full development is opened. This stage still requires an iterative approach that involves learning and possible change. To achieve this, it’s critical to gain real user feedback as it will ensure the right features are being developed at the right time.

By the end of the process, it’s possible to have multiple products in development at the same time, so it’s advisable to appoint respective ‘product owners’ to ensure the long-term success of each product.

Ultimately, change to any of the features and stages of development is an expected part of the process, and they need to happen quickly. Change shouldn’t be feared, avoided, nor taken lightly. But to make sure the changes stay on track and align with your objectives, it’s important to keep asking yourself two key questions along the journey: Does it genuinely solve your customers’ needs? Is it a viable business option? If your decision was wrong or doesn’t fit, take a step back, learn, and work the process again.

Dan Archer, Marketing Director at 383 

Image Credit: Mohamed_Hassan / Pixabay