Innovate Offerings – merge creativity, craftmanship & managerial discipline

Innovativeness of an organization is not formed by great ideas alone and is definitely not channeled only through new product features. A disciplined and holistic innovation process, spurred by both commercial and technology engineering and orchestrated by a Creative Conductor, will ensure successful launches.

A series of blog posts about Differ’s portfolio of solutions. During the fall we publish five blog posts with a deep dive into the areas that are key in order to obtain sustainable growth. This time: Innovate Offerings.

Differ has worked for many years in the area of new offering development, both in B2C and B2B environments. We have supported clients in development projects ranging from digital consumer services to heavy industrial equipment. Even if the context varies in many respects, there are some findings that cut across all innovation processes.

First of all, the result of most innovation processes fall short of delivering of the promise of the initial idea. It is a well-known fact that large organizations are far better at delivering continuous, smaller incremental improvements than true innovation. The most common explanations to this failure point to the inherent risk-aversion in the large corporations’ DNA, which does not promote innovation and kills radical ideas at an early stage. In our experience, this is not necessarily true. Large firms do host some great intrapreneurs, who do get funding for driving new business concepts.

A more valid explanation behind the poor innovation performance is the lack of continuous, holistic management across the four stages of an innovation process; ideation, conceptualization, development/design and commercial packaging & launch (see figure below).

Each stage involves different stakeholders, who have different objectives, mind-sets and insights about the core of the innovation idea. Tools and techniques abound, but each individual tool is often more suited for one or two of the innovation stages. There is a lack of holistic management view that keeps the power of the initial idea alive throughout the whole process. To achieve this, tools and techniques need to be harmonized and the insights and interests of different stakeholder units need to be aligned.

In recent years, the principles of Agile Development have been applied in many organisations. Cross-functional teams, often called Tribes, are given mandates over an extended period, sometimes indefinitely, almost turning them into a line structure.

This is a step in the right direction, but teams still need to stay connected to the core idea and be able to manage stakeholder expectations along the way. We have seen examples of tribes performing sprints in the Development & Design phase, to come up with an MVP (minimum viable product) that had no connection whatsoever to the core business concept from the Conceptualisation phase.

“Larger companies with a critical mass of innovation projects should consider formalizing an internal role as Creative Conductor or similar, to tackle their challenges. “

No matter how excellent deliveries that come out of the Development & Design phase, it will still be difficult to please stakeholders whose expectations only are based on the drafts from an earlier stage in the innovation process. Each stage of the innovation process will mediate different kinds of expectations, hence the importance of continuous communicate expected deliveries through the innovation process must be emphasized.

Secondly, most product-oriented companies still have severe difficulties to pursue innovation that is not commercialized in a traditional way, i.e. as new products or product features. Commercial innovation, e.g. new pricing models, will have a hard time fitting through the existing innovation processes. Innovation without engineering is still frowned upon and not given the attention and discipline that it deserves. Here too, the right solution involves a holistic and commercially oriented management of the process through all phases, and a redesign of the engineering-focused process to allow for other types of innovation.

In several projects, Differ has taken on the role as orchestrator of the entire process, from ideation to launch. Using external expertise in this way is a valid step for companies with infrequent launches and a need to increase both quality and speed in their innovation process. Larger companies with a critical mass of innovation projects should consider formalizing an internal role as Creative Conductor or similar, to tackle their challenges. The role needs to combine both creative, commercial and technical expertise and have a senior enough mandate to stand the ground against powerful stakeholders along the way.

A holistic management across the four stages of the innovation process is crucial in order to achieve desirable and sustainable innovation performance to the end customer. Differ has supported numerous of clients on their journey to structure and harmonize their innovation process to ensure implementation of desirable innovations.

Watch out for our next post on our second solution area, Optimize Customer Lifecycle.

Want to know more? Contact Jonas Strömgård or Gustav Jonasson.

Differ support companies and organizations on their journey of sustainable growth.
We work within all topline related disciplines. We understand how to build a brand, what creates a positive customer experience and the driving forces behind revenue generation. In this blog series we will present our point of view, our experiences, trend observations, and more, related to sustainable growth: Design customer experiences, Boost brands, Innovate offerings, Optimize customer lifecycle, and Transform frontline processes.

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