Innovation projects are rarely standardized. In our innovation workshops, we therefore rely on different methods to meet the individual goals of our customers.
Innovation is as individual as the company that drives it forward. Each brings its own framework conditions. Therefore, the innovation process must also be designed individually.
Technological innovations also take place in a context and are geared to the actual needs of a company. Whether disruptive or incremental – any form of innovation is justified when it offers added value to the customer, or user, and contributes to the overriding business objectives.
Anyone who deals with innovation at an early stage creates long-term perspectives
This has also been recognized by our customers, who now come to us at very early stages of their product development. Sometimes it is not even about products, but visions or perspectives with a horizon of up to 10 years.
Here, we support our customers by working together with their employees from various departments in workshops to develop requirements and/or innovative ideas.
Good preparation accelerates the innovation process
Before we carry out a workshop, it is first necessary to identify exactly where the customer stands with these questions:
- Are there any strategic guidelines?
- Are there technologies that should be applied?
- Should a specific target group be addressed?
- Is this target group new or established?
- Has a user problem already been identified?
- Are there specific product ideas in place?
Subsequently, we review the information, which is available to us as input and clarify the desired output. If necessary, we request further information.
An individual approach pays off
Each initial situation is different. A single design process for everything is therefore not appropriate, as Greg Satell, author of Mapping Innovation explains.
Therefore, we always tailor our workshops to your exact requirements. We use a variety of methods from various design processes, which are already established in the market.
Among the proven comprehensive process approaches are Design Thinking (IDEO) and Lean Startup, a method for developing companies and products.
Depending on the goal of the workshop, we use specific methods, such as Value Proposition Design (which is based on the benefit promise), User Journey Mapping, Jobs to be Done or Sprint (GV, formerly Google Ventures).
If a specific scope for an initial product release is to be defined, user story mapping, which graphically processes user stories and thus makes them clear, serves us well.
But which method is recommended for which project?
Five standard initial situations and our methods of choice
In the following, I describe five prototypical initial situations, which we encounter in practice again and again. And I’ll show you what methods we would use in each of these situations.
All the described situations have already been encountered in practice. And all the workshops outlined here have been carried out successfully in almost exactly this form. The situations presented here are generalized for reasons of non-disclosure.
Everything is possible – We are looking for visions for the future based on new (trend) technologies.
New technologies open up opportunities and at the same time carry risks. Will I be sidelined if I do not go along? Or can I create value for my customers precisely with these new technologies?
Cloud services, home automation, ultra-HD (4K), chatbots, augmented reality and virtual reality are trend technologies that we have dealt with recently.
In the last two areas, you are usually very far from a product. It’s more about developing visions. Where could the journey go? We are therefore looking for application situations that can be experienced in the form of prototypes.
A workshop could look like this:
We start with a Rapid Design Thinking session, a method to tackle challenges quickly, practically and creatively. Crazy paper prototypes emerge, which express, more or less, reality-oriented application ideas. A selection process – Speed Critique – borrowed from the Google Design Sprint – helps to unite a group with an idea. This is worked out together as a story about the use of the new product with the help of visioning – a kind of group storytelling process, which promotes the common vision.
This story is made visual by creating a hand drawn poster. With the help of Storyboarding and User Story Mapping (described in more detail below), the idea is made more specific so that on this basis a rather crazy but forward-looking prototype can be developed.
Next Generation – What could new products look like which exploit existing assets?
The customer has a functioning business model. But a changing competition situation makes innovations necessary. The target group can remain the same or be extended.
The goal in this case is to identify new customer needs and/or problems. Solutions and products usually only have to be roughly sketched.
As a starting point, for example, context interviews with existing customers are appropriate. These provide insights into the user experience with the company’s products. To get an overview of these experiences, we are developing a User Experience Journey Map. This already makes initial optimization potential visible.
The positive and negative experiences at the individual touchpoints are then used as material for an Affinity Diagram (Rapid Contextual Design). In doing so, clusters are created that describe the superordinate problem areas in which innovative ideas can be sought.
In a further step from the Rapid Contextual Design Prozess, the Wallwalk, the group develops many innovative ideas which can be used to avoid negative experiences and to promote positive experiences. After selecting the best, so-called hot ideas, the previously described visioning is the starting point for many product developments that affect the entire product landscape.
Start-Up – Specific product ideas that address a known user problem must be developed.
The search for ideas is much more specific, for example, in start-ups. A target group and a user problem are usually identified. Here we go straight to the picture: What exactly should the product look like? What features could solve the problem?
To pinpoint what a product should ultimately perform, the Jobs to be Done method is recommended. A job map, that is, a graphical representation, which also takes into account the various user groups, provides a rough overview of the functional areas or the rough workflow of the product. This ensures a common understanding of the project.
Details are then worked out using hand-drawn storyboards. Manual drawing, on the one hand, compels us to become concrete and, on the other hand, not to lose ourselves in details. By adding the user to the drawings, you ensure that the product is designed in a “user-centered” way. On this basis, a wireframe mockup can be created.
Confrontation with reality – Does the user accept our solution?
A proven problem experienced by the users and a reasonable solution for it are still not a guarantee of the success of a product. On the contrary, the likelihood that the product or the idea will flop is still very high. Certainly, any hurdle the user would have to overcome, may have been missed. Each product is based on assumptions. “Is there a need?” “Will the customer pay for it?” And so on.
The most important assumption: Is the solution determined from the customer’s point of view to be so useful that they are ready to give up their previous patterns of action?
In this case, the Google Design Sprint process is recommended. In the workshop, the assumptions (hypotheses) are identified using this approach. Then, a prototype is developed over several intermediate stages, which is so real despite minimal development effort. Subjects in a subsequent user test also consider it as real. This is the only way to create genuine user reactions, which actually reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the product idea.
The egg laying wool milk sow – How to reduce the many feature ideas and speed up the launch
There is no product backlog, no feature list, and no scope of a product that allows it to be developed in a reasonable amount of time and with the budget provided. One must reduce, or at least define an initial version – often referred to as the “Minimum Viable Product (MVP)” – which is the first to market. The art is to choose the features that, when combined together, still provide the core use case as well as the desired benefits.
A proven method for this is user story mapping. In this process, the product is formulated as user stories and described as a chronological sequence of product use. The user stories are written on Post-Its and put up on the wall along a horizontal line.
Next, the very rough user stories are broken down into subtasks (subordinate tasks) and put up in vertical rows under the associated user stories.
These subtasks are then sorted according to importance from top to bottom.
If you now draw a horizontal line after the first two subtasks, all user stories and subtasks arranged above describe the MVP.
You can find out more about this in one of the next blog posts.