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Exploring innovation opportunities through sprints

Innovation is not going to happen by a creative spark or accident! Image from Pixabay

Insulin to treat diabetes had been in use since 1920s. While there was constant product development, including the massive one of genetically engineered “human insulin”, the massive transformation happened when the customer experience was addressed through the Novopen.

A women doctor, a mother of a diabetic child, was the driving force to the discovery. Fed up with the poor experience of administering correct dosage and the associated difficulties, her unflagging collaboration with Bernard Sams and Novo resulted in the first insulin pen.

As pharmaceutical innovations go, this was a massive one. It wasn’t just product innovation. Novo had come up with a platform that dramatically improved treatment accuracy and was a game-changer for customer experience. The company Novo Nordisk is amongst the largest and most profitable biotechnology firms globally.

As innovations go, this is amongst the best example of disruptive innovation; an innovation that created a platform, dramatically improved the effectiveness of the core product, locked in customers to their product and significantly improved customer experience. The best part is that the innovation was not about the core product!

Today, platform innovation is much better understood. Many more companies have understood this and used it effectively; think Kindle when it comes to books, iOS and app store from Apple and many more.

But are there more ways than this to innovate? Trott (2005) introduced the typology of 7 types of innovation. The consulting company, Doblin, have been consulting the 10 types of innovation since the 90s and published the 10 Types of Innovation book in 2013. While the 10 types can be mapped onto the 7 types proposed by Trott, the 10 types do give a more comprehensive picture of the types of innovation.

The 10 types identified by the Doblin group reveals that innovation can be about offers, delivery of the offers, process used to produce the offer and the way the offers generate money.

Well, my blog is not about explaining the 10 types, good old google will do a better job and the Doblin site is pretty good at it. The book is even better. I would like to explain how we utilize the framework to help organizations innovate.

We realized that frameworks are never the bottleneck to innovation, but how to utilize them are a bottleneck. Hence we combined the innovation sprint methodology, developed by the Innovation360 Group with the Doblin framework. The sprint methodology consists of two parts

1. Alpha sprint – Generate ideas

2. Gamma sprint – Select viable concepts

Source: Innovation360 Group

One of the common mistakes we see at organizations is the hurry to implement the first promising idea. Organizations choose a very linear process for managing ideas; use a stage-gate mechanism to filter ideas and select one idea for further development.

We recommend a non-linear process; generate a large number of ideas, converge on a few promising ideas and then develop/experiment many concepts before converging on the final solution. Our alpha sprint helps generate many ideas using an open platform. We recommend that organizations run campaigns for generating ideas. Create an electronic platform for capturing the ideas, Innovation 360 group’s SaaS platform, Ideation360® is an excellent one. Allow all contributors to see other ideas, comment on them and build on them. Best practices show that by building on other ideas, employees end up developing even better ideas. Another best practice is clustering similar ideas, usually, clustering generates superior ideas.

Evaluation of ideas is a very important step of ideation programs and can make or break innovation programs. Traditional thinking leverage operational stage-gate mechanism for decision making and selecting ideas. With innovation, such practices are sub-optimal.

With innovation, we have realized that hypothesis based experimentation and evaluation help not only identify the best ideas but also generate knowledge for the organization to use. We recommend that for every idea a hypothesis should be generated. The hypothesis should be tested and decisions should be taken based on factual data that the experiment generates. Great innovators are seen to carry out a large number of experiments and are never afraid of failed experiments.

Once you have data from experiments create a portfolio of selected ideas, some could be implemented immediately and impact the current business (low risk - H1 ideas). Some of the ideas would address adjacencies and require some effort for development (medium risk H2 ideas). Yet others may be futuristic and require significant efforts to develop/commercialize. These will be high reward – high-risk horizon 3 ideas.

Once ideas are selected the gamma sprints focus on a detailed investigation of the problem and opportunity. This includes evaluation of customer needs since the graveyard of innovations is littered with products that customers don’t need. The second investigation in this step is focused on validating the solution; can we develop it, can we produce it and can we sell it.

Once both problem and solution are validated, you should be able to narrow the development efforts to fewer concepts. At this stage, you need to expand again and explore multiple product ideas using methods from the lean startup toolkit. Once again a large number of market-led experiments help you generate factual data for decision making. Best practice indicates that you should experiment in tiers; near, field and market testing.

Source: Innovation Sprint methodology developed by Innovation360 Group

Utilizing the 10 types framework will let you generate ideas and concepts that allow innovation that goes beyond product focus

1. Profit model innovation

2. Network and alliances

3. Structure innovation

4. Core and enabling process innovation

5. Product performance innovation

6. Product system and platform innovation

7. Service innovation

8. Channel innovation

9. Brand innovation

10. Customer experience innovation

You don’t have to depend on an accidental discovery or serendipity to come out with innovation. If you are dependent on a creative spark to innovate rather than establish a systematic innovation experiment, you are likely to be disappointed.

Do you have a plan to innovate and be disruptive?

If you would like to discuss the topic of innovation, do get in touch with me. You can book a free 60 min one on one discussion here:

Krishnan Naganathan

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:


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