Updated: Nov 21, 2021
Being an innovative company isn’t all disruption, game-changing, and creating new markets and customers. Inherently, to be innovative firms must embrace failure. Ideally, failure in controlled environments or experiments would create a level of comfort with firm leaders but not all firms are created equal in that some firms may not have the resources to expend on experiments. In those instances, to pursue competitive advantage and value creation firms launch great new ideas into the market on the belief that it will meet their customer’s needs. Consequently, some firms launch innovations into the market that totally miss their target market. Innovations miss their target market because of timing; either the customers are not ready for the innovation or the innovation doesn’t actually meet customer’s needs.
How does this happen? Typically, this happens as a result of a new idea that was inappropriately vetted and inadequately aligned with the customer's needs. Design thinking and service design are great protocols to follow to fully evaluate a concept and progress an idea from concept to commercial impact.
As leaders, we can get overzealous sometimes and launch an innovation that we know our customers need but maybe way off like Sandy's jump-shot.
Here is a post on service design that layouts out the process.
Acceptance testing, user feedback, and quantifiable refinement are three areas in the innovation management process that firms fall short and subsequently miss their target. This is the “boring” part of innovation management but is critical to the feasibility and viability of the concept in the market. Absent the appropriate testing and validation, customers may not be ready for the innovative idea or just don’t see the value of the idea for their business. This can have a detrimental effect on not only the firm but its customers if not managed correctly. The implications of wasted resources on a small firm can be substantial not to mention the adverse effect it could have on the relationship between leaders, employees, and customers.
Ideally preventing the unfortunate effects of an innovation that misses its target would be the way to go. Preventative measures would include conducting exhaustive validation efforts prior to launch. Many firms build gates into their validation process, which ensure the appropriate alignment with customer needs. There are several methods in which to validate an idea, including the waterfall and lean approaches. However, underlying any of these validation approaches are a hand full of universal principles that anyone can execute to prevent missing the mark with their innovative ideas.
Here’s a quick rundown of the 5 principles of validation:
Conceptualize - Get to the 5 best versions of the idea; any more than 5 will be confusing
Capture – Choose clients or prospects to expose the idea to and interview them; do not choose family and friends
Conduct – Informal interviews are a great way to get clients and prospects involved with your idea; don’t forget to thank them for their time and feedback
Confirm – After thoroughly reviewing feedback, decide on the version that most resonates with your interviewees; feel free to re-engage interviewees to gain complete clarity
Construct – Build a minimum viable prototype for launch; don’t forget to plan out branding and customer acquisition to accompany the prototype.
The Board of Innovation is a global business design agency, has developed a great resource set for those looking for best practices in corporate innovation. Here's their validation guide.
It goes without saying, that to get alignment with customer needs one would have to be proximate to customers. To avoid missing the target market with innovative ideas, co-creation tactics, like information sessions and solution development working sessions are great ways to work with customers toward innovative ideas. Most would agree that preventing is easier than fixing, so preventative measures would be recommended over trying to fix a situation where an innovative idea was launched, and it missed its target market. Let’s go to the playbook to see how to deal with an innovation that misses its target market.
INNOVATION LEADERSHIP PLAYBOOK
Implications of scenario on innovation strategy
Guidelines to keep innovation on its mark
Innovation strategy always has the customer at the center
Innovation that no one needs is useless
Innovation strategy embeds exhaustive testing and validation
What to do if you find your business in this situation?
Get back to the drawing board - Devise a plan to close the gap (which should include the 5 C’s discussed above). Take the appropriate action as soon as possible to leverage the timing that is being created as the gap closes.
Break glass in case of emergency – Remaining as business as usual is not a recipe for success in this situation. An adjustment to your business model will not be necessary but changing a bit is required to close the gap between the launched innovation and customer’s needs. First, fully understand the root cause of the issue, it may be resolved in one simple step or may require a longer-term approach.
Don’t just put the innovation on the shelf if current timing is off (periodically revisit) - It’s very likely that the timing is not right for your innovative idea but get active refining the idea and creating demand for your it
Consult with customers to adjust the innovation to customers’ needs - Its also very likely that your idea was developed from your perspective which may be different than your customer’s perspective as a result there is a disconnect between the idea and the commercial use of the idea
Re-purpose as a new capability - Be flexible and open to the original intent of your idea changing under the direction of a new understanding of customer’s needs
Innovation that misses its mark isn't the end of the world or even the end of the innovative idea. While mindset is helpful in recovering from an innovation that misses its mark, an innovation strategy that responds to the gap combined with a mindset of perseverance will get that idea back on track and hit its desired target.
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