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Innovation: a simple guide

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We talked to Innovation Coach Elaine Baxter from Boutique Innovation, about the simple steps to innovation. This process tells you all you need to know about taking a product or service from “idea” to “market”.

Get the innovation lingo: In this article, we use the word “proposition”. This means the product or service that you are innovating, and planning to bring to market.

Innovation Step 1: Assess the landscape

What does it mean?

This first step to innovation involves doing market research to understand where you could slot in with your proposition.

What should I do?

  • Find out what other products or services already exist in the market
  • Understand what the market size is
  • See who your competitors are
  • Assess where the value and opportunity lies
  • Speak to potential users. Work out who could be a potential customer and try to understand what their needs are.

What’s the point?

If you can identify a user’s unmet need, and think that you can address that need with your proposition, there’s the gap in the market for you! Check out our other article on market research.

Innovation Step 2: Gather insights

What does it mean?

That ‘aha’ moment when you look at all your work in stage 1, and realise that there’s some great insights from it. It makes you look at your proposition in a new way, and you should reach the “surprisingly obvious” point that just makes sense.

What should I do?

  • Keep it simple. Your insight needs to be based on a user need which just makes sense.
  • If people can understand it immediately, then you’re onto something. This is when you can start building confidence and move onto the next stage.

What’s the point?

This step to innovation keeps you focused on insights from consumers, so that your proposition will meet the needs of potential buyers.

Innovation Step 3: Ideation

What does it mean?

Take your insight and figure out ways to address the insights you found in stage 2.

What should I do?

  • Get a group of people together. Try and address the insights by coming from lots of different angles and put yourselves in the shoes of the consumer.
  • Come up with lots of different ways to move your idea forward.
  • Focus on the human need. If you do this, you’re more likely to sell well at the other end.

What’s the point?

This step to innovation helps to you move your idea forward based on the fact that you’re addressing the human needs you found from your insight. Choose the best ideas and angles to pursue further.

Innovation Step 4: Prototypes

What does it mean?

You mock up some examples of what your product or service might look like.

What should I do?

  • If your product is physical, get your craft on! Elaine recommends using balloons, sticks, pompoms and more to make some prototypes. Let your imagination run wild!
  • If you want to make a new juice drink, go and buy a few different bottles of juice that you like, start to cut and paste parts of the labels, lids, etc. that you like. You will begin to piece together a product.
  • If it’s a digital proposition, mock something up on PowerPoint. You can create it to look similar to a website, and click through different slides.

What’s the point?

This stage lets your creativity run freely, and this is a crucial part to innovation. It means that you have something tangible to show to people, and make a proposal of what your proposition might look like.

Innovation Step 5: Testing

What does it mean?

Target users who don’t know anything about your product or service and find out what they think of your proposition.

What should I do?

  • Recruit a group of people who fit the criteria for who you think might buy your product.
  • If you already have a prototype you feel confident with, you can show them the prototype and get their feedback.
  • Or, you can work with this group to co-create a prototype based on their human need.
  • This testing allows you to receive quick feedback based on how users interact with it.

What’s the point?

This stage gives you real feedback which you can use to iterate and redesign your prototype until you think, “this is the product I want to launch”.

“Elaine, what’s the number 1 tip you would give to women entrepreneurs?”

– Really understand your user. Understand what that user need is, and what’s going to drive someone to use your product or service. Make your innovation match the user need as closely as possible.

What next?

Check out these reading recommendations from Elaine, all about innovation and design process:

  • Value Proposition Design by Alexander Osterwalder
  • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • The Luma Institute
  • Ideo

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