For a long while, I have been preaching the idea of innovation sprints to unlock the innovation potential of an organization's employees. I got an opportunity to demonstrate this while teaching innovation and entrepreneurship to the 2nd year MBA students at the SOIL School of Business Design, Manesar.
During the previous academic year (2021-22) I taught the same course online and we couldn't optimally engage the students in a practice-based innovation course.
This year was an in-person session and I could design the course in such a way that students learned innovation concepts through a live innovation project. The course was divided into 6 sessions spread over 3 weeks.
Students began their project in session 2, during which they identified challenging problems. Each of these problems had either sub-optimal or known solutions in the current markets and varied across domains; education, food, tourism, sports, consumer products and health.
The students learned about the 9 stages of innovation that are closely aligned to the innovation readiness level (see graphic below).
Stage 1: Idea/hypothesis stage
In this stage, the innovator generates idea(s), each supported by a hypothesis, on how to create value for internal/external customers uniquely. The idea and the hypothesis are then reviewed, commented and refined for further exploration
Stage 2: Real Problem identified
In this stage, the innovator analyses the customer's job to be done and identifies the important ones. The pains of the customer are identified and the gains he can achieve are identified. The hypothesis to test are identified and tested. Data from interviews and tests are verified to show that the customer problem is important. A market definition canvas is now prepared. During this stage, the original idea goes through multiple refinements/pivots.
Stage 3: Solution Concept developed
During this stage, solution morphology is created. The project killers are identified and proven that they can be eliminated. A solution morphology is narrowed to a smaller set of possible solutions based on sound logic. The anthropological approach is utilized to identify the most valuable features desired by the customer.
Stage 4: Develop and test low-fidelity prototypes
The business model canvas is prepared at this stage and low-fidelity prototypes are used to test the hypothesis regarding customer segments, the value proposition for each of the customer segments, customer channels and customer relationships. The low-fidelity prototypes help develop the minimum feature set for the MVP.
Stage 5: Develop a minimum viable product (MVP)
In this stage, an MVP is developed and tested to prove that the functional objectives of the product can be met and the customer problem can be solved. Tests are done in the laboratory environment and test protocols and product documentation is prepared. Pilot customers are identified and enrolled for further testing. At this stage, there is clear evidence that the product meets all functionality requirements in a controlled environment
Stage 6: Pilot test for desirability
In this stage, the customer desirability of the solution is tested with a carefully selected audience. Customer willingness to pay for the solution is validated by the target audience.
Stage 7: Feasibility and viability assessment
In this stage, the technology readiness level is validated and the investment readiness level is assessed. A detailed business model canvas is prepared, with many of the hypotheses validated. A minimum marketable product is ready.
Stage 8: Commercialization
In this stage, the product is used by customers in their actual environment. The ecosystem and partners are identified and enrolled. The business model is validated and adjustments are made. The client acquisition process is developed and validated by developing a healthy funnel.
Stage 9: Scale up
In this stage, the scale-up strategy (Spinout, new BU, licensing etc) is developed. Organization building and transfer to business operation from the innovation team are completed. The partner and production ecosystem is fully functional and scaled up.
Our experience with students of SOBD
The students did a great job of generating ideas and refining them after clustering. They also prepared a customer value canvas to identify the most important jobs, pains and gains. This enabled them to identify the real customer problem worth solving.
The teams also had a go at preparing the first versions of the business model canvas and identifying the features for a possible solution.
5 of the teams succeeded in developing a solution concept in as little as 1 week.
I am personally confident that at least 2 of the concepts developed have the potential to become significant innovations and we might be close to creating 10 entrepreneurs! I have decided to take forward one of the ideas and offered to mentor the young innovators.
If young students who initially had no interest in entrepreneurship can come up with such success using the sprint process, I don't find any reason why organizations can't succeed with high-potential teams. I believe that a 10 to 12-week program can unearth 4 to 5 MVPs in an organization willing to expose 20 to 30 cross-functional teams to explore innovation.
Looking for innovative organizations to explore this approach.
Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org