By Angus Robertson, Ahmet Abaci and Beth Somplatsky-Martori
It takes more than luck, randomness, or the alignment of the stars to achieve success. Reaching our more earth-bound goals requires studious planning, hard work – and the ability to narrow our focus in the face of the shiny objects that compete for our attention
Fortunately, we have an ally in shutting out the noise and focusing on which innovations will truly move our business forward – the Phase Gate process. You’ll recall in our last blog that we introduced you to “Phase Gate Lite” – a process-driven reality check that uses a series of tests, or “gates,” to validate ideas that we hope to bring to market.
It may not surprise you that the very first gate is concept development – specifically, answering the question as to whether the target consumer has an interest in our innovation.
When done correctly, this gate will help us measure the scope and size of the pain that our prospect is experiencing, the interest of our market for our particular solution, and valuable insights that will shape the user experience and sequence of activities.
But getting to, and through, this gate is not easy. With our innovation still coming into focus, there are several pitfalls that lurk within this gate – any of which could derail the process and reset us back to Square One. These include:
1. Death by Random Ideas: It is said that “random is the enemy of effectiveness.” With so many ideas flying about, the ones we pluck for further research have to fit the business strategy that we’ve outlined for innovation. Putting constraints around creativity can be difficult, but it’s absolutely necessary.
2. Untruthfulness: People lie – not always on purpose, of course. But when you ask someone what’s truly important to them in terms of product features, they’ll tend to rattle off a bunch of untruths. How do we know? Because their actions usually don’t match their verbal assertions. Getting past the biases, and into the subconsciousness, of the consumer or end user, is best achieved by observing their actions when they buy and use your product (or something similar). Though it would make our jobs easier if consumers and end users were unfailingly pragmatic and rational, the reality is that emotions often take over, and we get a response that lies somewhere outside the truth.
One example of the down side risk of listening to the wrong people was Huggies Liquid Powder.
Huggies was in the development stages of a new liquid baby powder that would dry immediately and leave really soft skin. As part of their concept development process, they listened to mothers who had stopped using baby powder due to inhalation concerns and used those insights to power their product development pipeline. The product flopped – and Huggies later learned that it had missed its target – indeed, 90 percent of baby powder users were adults, and the liquid form was irrelevant to them.
Concept development is a powerful construct – truly a linchpin to the Phase Gate process – but it’s surprising how we tend to get locked inside an internal bubble and become closed off to any idea that’s not our own. It requires a true cultural shift at your company to embrace this aspect of the Phase Gate process – one that prizes the input of your ideal customer rather than a bunch of coworkers who are (admittedly) too close to the process.
In our next blog, we’ll advance to the next gate – the business case, which begins to connect the ideation process with the corporate realities of funding and launching a new product.
Check out our LinkedIn Live video on innovation:
Full series on innovation: