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Innovation Principles, 3/7

“In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before anything else.”
—José Raúl Capablanca

It can be both costly and detrimental to a project when fundamental questions about idea viability, scalability, or profitability emerge late in the game when we are already deeply vested and financially committed. The intent of the proposed end-to-end product innovation framework is to augment understanding of interdependency between and within opportunity incubation and product delivery milestones. Key incubation and product delivery steps are tailored to address uncertainties and progressively mitigate the main risks while building confidence toward the desired outcome.

Tradeoff between risks reduction and confidence build during the project progression and investment ramp-up.

The framework consists of two principal parts: (i) opportunity incubation—the innovation spiral—and (ii) product delivery—stage-gate product development (see image below). It is imperative to understand and be prepared for the essentially different characters of these two framework parts yet remain aware of their symbiotic affiliation.

Opportunity incubation is based on the Front-End of Innovations (FEI) process that reflects human-centered, design-thinking principles plus additional elements necessary to support concept readiness for the product development. Opportunity incubation is an iterative effort. It is represented here by a spiral where an opportunity is incubated through nine causally related but functionally distinct steppingstones. Also note the holistic character of the incubation process involving everything from empathic understanding of customer needs via technical solutions and a fabrication approach to a business case and the go-to-market strategy. The holistic and iterative nature of an innovation incubation strive is what calls for an entrepreneurial mindset and perhaps explains how an entrepreneurial perspective contrasts with the views of subject matter experts. Product development readiness via iterative incubation is achieved once we establish the objective evidence and sufficient confidence that our solution is feasible, desirable, scalable, and business viable.

End-to-end framework of innovation and new product development continuum.

The product delivery phase begins upon completion of thorough front-end incubation work. It could be conceptually portrayed as a “linear” stage gate process consisting of parallel “swim lanes” associated with different cross-functional work streams. No new product or service development is ever truly linear; however, a rigorous, holistically incubated solution should maximize the chances for a reasonably predictable and committable product development. Another key element of the product delivery phase is the conjoint development of a product, operation processes, and a go-to-market commercial preparation. Conceptually, these are represented by parallel swim lines for R&D, marketing, and operational processes. Depending on the product and industry, different cross-functional swim lanes will be applicable.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

—African Proverb

Maximizing Success

It takes a village to bring a new product to market. In corporate settings, cross-functional competencies are usually available and well-defined; however, effective and efficient execution remains a challenge. A realistic and clearly defined project scope in combination with competent and agile cross-functional leadership is key.

In addition, team dynamics and motivation, as well as a sense of ownership and quality of deliverables, often play an instrumental role in success for timely execution in a corporate setting. Concurrent product, process, and customer development could be the foundation for the shortest time to market when developing transformational or novel physical products. A clearly defined RACI matrix further facilitates timely, effective, and efficient cross-functional collaboration and co-development.

In a startup environment, quality, finance, distribution, supply chain, legal, and other cross-functional necessities still need to be effectively addressed in the face of typically limited resources. As such, startups are good learn-by-doing environments that often require team members to wear multiple hats on a daily basis.

At the end of day, we do all this to maximize the probability of doing it right the first time and therefore prevailing by a successful business offering under the shortest timeline and lowest development cost.

Editor’s Note: Selected topics from Milan Ivosevic’s book, Eureka to Wealth, will be featured as part of this Innovation Principles series in the following months:

  1. Introduction (Oct. ’23)
  2. Entrepreneurial Perspective: Human-Centered Design Entrepreneurship(Nov. ’23)
  3. Entrepreneurial Perspective: End to End Product Innovation Framework (Dec. ’23)
  4. Opportunity Incubation: The Innovation Spiral (Jan. ’24)
  5. Opportunity Incubation: Business Case (Sizing the Opportunity and Go / No Go check) (Feb. ’24)
  6. Product Delivery: Development Strategy (Mar. ’24)
  7. Product Delivery: Delivery Effectiveness (Apr. ’24)

Contributor

  • Milan Ivosevic

    Milan Ivosevic is an executive leader, entrepreneur, and innovator. From a blacksmith forge to engineering laboratories, from startups to Fortune 500 board rooms, Milan’s calling card has been his prowess in the successful commercialization of advanced technologies and new product innovations. With numerous contributions and patents in sectors ranging from advanced aerospace coatings to disruptive medical devices, his contributions have stirred market spaces and positively impacted areas such as medication management, drug delivery, blood collection, robotic surgery, and reproductive biotechnologies. In Eureka to Wealth, Milan weaves decades of value creation experience into an easily understood framework that is as valuable for executives as it is for innovation practitioners.

 
 

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