Approaches to Innovation

Innovation is a business process that can be measured and controlled. The issue is that most business executives see innovation as art, and not an amalgamation of art and science. If the organization puts a relevant innovation process in place and adheres to it, it is bound to inevitably bring valid and reliable results.

There are basically 2 approaches to carrying out the innovation process;

  • Ideas-First Approach
    • Brainstorm several ideas
    • Filter those ideas
    • Test those ideas
    • Identify most attractive ideas for further processing
  • Needs-First Approach
    • Identify consumer segments to explore/serve
    • Study and establish unmet consumer needs
    • Formulate solutions to address those unmet needs

Comparing the 2 Approaches

Just by contemplation, one can easily see that the Ideas-First approach can be expected to be more resource-hungry, as well as more random, when compared to the Needs-First approach. You have to know where the target is, if you need to hit it. The resources engaged in generating and then filtering ideas can be better-engaged in studying unmet needs of the consumer segments already being served by the organization or being targeted for future serving.

One caveat here; The ideas-first approach may be considered as a continuation of a “Jury of Executive Opinion” experience within the organization. After all, an organization has experience behind it, with it’s resources already engaged in serving one or more consumer segments. That experience or know-how can be used to devise a more relevant cache of ideas, which are more meaningful to the organization.

In conclusion, let’s consider Tony Ulwick’s advice on the matter.

Failing fast is not a viable strategy. Instead, companies should “learn fast” and get it right the first time. As Steve Jobs said, “We had a fundamental belief that doing it right the first time was going to be easier than having to go back and fix it. And I cannot say strongly enough that the repercussions of that attitude are staggering. I’ve seen them again and again throughout my business life.”

So, how do you see your organization, Startup or Established, pursuing innovation: Ideas-First or Needs-First?



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