Innovation Snack 9-3 Selecting Your Next Innovation Project. Criteria 3: Doable

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

The first two of three criteria were Passion and Impact. Over the course of coaching hundreds of startup entrepreneurs, I’ve seen many whose projects meet these two criteria – but that fail the third criteria.

The third criteria is Doable. Do you have the resources – the knowledge, skills, and connections – to make the project happen?

I’ve met with numerous entrepreneurs who had wonderful project ideas, yet couldn’t get started because they needed a technical cofounder, or needed someone to handle sales, or didn’t even know any companies or consumers in their target market. I’ve seen idea people write business plans requiring vast financing to hire the top talent they lack (but without having any individual people in mind for those positions). Investors don’t look at “We’ll throw money at it later to shore up our skills” as an admirable trait.

Even if the project idea scores high for passion and impact, you are better off to scrub it if you don’t have clear resources to do the project – rather than fooling yourself. Of course, you can always go obtain those resources – and evaluate the project again later – and then I’d say you are good to go!

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch

Innovation Snack 9-2 Selecting Your Next Innovation Project. Criteria 2: Impact

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

I believe that companies and products exist for more than just making a buck. I believe that they should make a positive impact on a community or the entire world – that they should make the world a better place. I teach this principle to young entrepreneurs so they understand that entrepreneurship is more than hustling dollar bills, and I believe it applies (or at least should apply) to everyone.

So, the second criteria is Impact. Will the project make the impact you’d like to see in the community you are serving? Will it make the world (or at least some small part of it) a better place?

Without clear positive impact, your product or service runs the risk of being perceived as a mere attempt to fatten your pocketbook, rather than as a way to add value to a community (and the customers within that community). Impact is like value – but applied to the entire market or community rather than to individual customers.

Think of the companies and founders you most admire – and give repeat business. I’ll bet that most have created products that pushed their markets or communities forward. Call me altruistic if you like (thanks for the compliment), but I believe creating positive impact creates innovation return not only in repeat business, but also by growing markets.

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch

Innovation Snack 9-1 – Selecting a New Innovation Project. Criteria 1: Passion

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

If you try at least a little bit, you should be able to identify (brainstorm, ideate) a LOT of potential new innovation projects. Over the next three Innovation Snacks, I am going to describe 3 criteria to narrow down your ideas and select excellent projects.

The first criteria is Passion. How passionate are you about fixing that problem, meeting that need, or fulfilling that opportunity?

Even if a project idea fulfills the next 2 criteria (check back later or buy Made From Scratch to learn what they are), I say scrub the project if you are not passionate about it. Consider that any new product or service solution you create will continue for years to come. If you aren’t into it, your life will be miserable throughout those years. Or, you will do a mediocre or worse job (because your heart is not in it), your customers will sense that, and your return will be below par.

Life is too short to devote years to something you don’t truly care about (even if you think it could bring a good financial return). Plus, customers are smart and notice when companies don’t truly care about their solutions or their customers.

On the other hand, customers also notice when a company is excited about what it creates and sells, when the company’s heart is truly in it, and when the company’s employees reflect an attitude of true passion and caring. And that can lead to good innovation return.

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch

Innovation Snack 8 – It’s Story Time

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

OK, let’s assume that you have solved a needed customer problem by creating a superb product solution. Good job on your innovation work, but you aren’t close to done yet.

To realize a return on your innovation you, of course, need to sell some product. To do that, you may need investor, bank, or internal financing.

To sell product, you’ll need a brand story targeted to your customers. The good news is that since you’ve done the work to understand the customer’s problem and then translate that into a kick-butt solution, you already understand much of what will go into your brand story.

To approach investors or lenders (or internal funders), you will need a business case story. And you have a head start on the business case, because you’ve identified the attributes of a compelling solution and built it out. Plus, that puts you in position to gain traction and confirm unknowns like pricing – two proofs that investors and lenders depend on.

Congrats on being well-prepared to achieve a good innovation return – provided you do more than “build a better mousetrap” – by communicating your good work to customers and financiers.

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch

Innovation Snack 7 – Ideation: Relevance Over Quantity

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

I recently saw a post touting a process to create 10X-100X more brainstorming ideas. Sounds good, but it misses the point of ideation.

The goal is not to create a massive quantity of ideas or solutions. The goal is to create a reasonable amount of HIGHLY RELEVANT SOLUTIONS. Focusing on quantity alone truly proves the saying that, “Ideas are a dime a dozen.” Instead focus on the customer and stakeholder research that enables you to ask the right questions, those that are most relevant to creating big value for those customers.

Innovation return depends on understanding your customers’ needs and values well enough that your ideation can be laser-focused on creating ideas that are highly relevant to customer value. A technique to simply create lots of ideas cannot replace understanding relevance!

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch.

Innovation Snack 6 – Evaluate Yourself Just Like a VC Would

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

If you were investing in a startup, the odds are that you would expect that startup to meet some pretty strong criteria. Apply those criteria to your own product portfolio.

Would you invest in a company that …

  1. Doesn’t have a product in the market?
  2. Doesn’t have sales (actually, fast-growing sales)?
  3. Doesn’t have a rockstar team?
  4. Doesn’t have a solid pipeline to receive customer feedback?
  5. Doesn’t have a large easily-identifiable market?

Of course not.

The metrics are clear. Your job is to move each project in your innovation portfolio toward them. And kill the ones that just don’t make it. Achieving a superior innovation return doesn’t end when your innovation concept was born – it depends how well you can bring it to life.

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch.

Innovation Snack 5 – Skate Where the Puck Is Going

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

Want growth tomorrow? Sell to companies that are growing. Tomorrow’s leaders. The companies ahead of the curve. Catch them early on to capitalize on their growth.

Who are the companies in your market who …

  1. Are finding market niches that the big dogs don’t want to bother with.
  2. Are using your product in weird, but compelling, ways. Or, don’t like or use your product because your current version is too old school.
  3. Are perceived as either a bit crazy, or too small to be concerned with, to the old school status quo competitors.

These companies are the future of your market. Some of them are the innovators who see things that you and the status quo don’t. They are going to grow into leaders as the market starts to see their vision of the world.

Companies who grow successfully change the market in brand new ways that sometimes look silly to the status quo. Look for those rising star unique thinkers in your market, and solidify your relationship with them while your competitors are still laughing at them. Think of it as portfolio management.

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch.

Innovation Snack 4 – Forward Looking Innovation Metrics

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

You could measure the effectiveness of your innovation program by the effect on sales or profitability. But those are backward looking metrics.

Instead, measure some forward looking metrics to make sure you are doing the foundational activities to keep those backward looking metrics looking good. Metrics like …

  1. Number of customers talked with
  2. Number of observations made
  3. Number of better understood customer interactions
  4. Number of new features, product concepts, and business models invented
  5. Number of new features, product concepts, and business models tested

Measure the innovation activities that can move the needle on those backward looking metrics – and provide real sustainable innovation return.

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch.

Innovation Snack 3 – No Such Thing as SUSTAINABLE Competitive Advantage

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

You just completed refreshing a product. Customers love it! You solved some of their gnarliest problems. So, you’re good now, right? Time to rest and reap the rewards?

Nope. Now that those problems are out of the way, your customers will discover new ones. Plus, the market will change and bring with it new challenges. What are those new problems and challenges?

Innovation is a long term process, just like sales. Your return comes from a series of innovation or re-invention projects, not just one project that you hope will give you a sustainable competitive advantage forever.

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch.

Innovation Snack 2 – Prioritization Is the Enemy of Open Mindedness

It’s not a seven course meal.
It’s just a snack.
You can consume it in a minute or so.
But, it brings the flavor!

Prioritizing is often used as a way to become more productive and efficient. For example, focusing on the needs of your big customers can bring you a quick and sizable return.

But in innovation work, ignoring the needs of other customer segments can keep you stuck. Creativity depends on a variety of input from a wide variety of customers. You miss the new trends, you miss how to help new segments grow to be tomorrow’s big customers, and you risk becoming too closed minded to see new opportunities.

Being focused and efficient can provide a short term return, but being open minded fosters the creativity needed for a long term innovation return.

For a thorough guide to innovation techniques that will help you conceive and invent products that customers love, buy Steve’s e-book Made From Scratch.