When it comes to choosing between creativity or productivity, most companies consider them to be mutually exclusive. In reality, they shouldn’t be. In a study by Adobe Systems, 80 percent of respondents said that unlocking creativity was crucial to economic growth. However, nearly the same number noted that they were under pressure at their workplace to focus on productivity rather than creativity, and only a quarter felt they were living up to their creative potential.
Today, people are living in an age of big data and its cousin, data analytics, spawned by Google and IBM’s Watson and furthered by any number of Silicon Valley companies. Data crunching is crucial to the smooth running of a company. But when the focus on data comes at the expense of creativity and innovation, the company has the potential to lose forward momentum.
Some highly successful companies have chosen to pay special attention to creative and innovative thinking. But the highly successful companies don’t stop there. They ask: “What comes after the idea? How can we create an environment that allows a light bulb thought to become reality?”
There are scores of lessons and workshops out there on how to think creatively, collaboratively and innovatively. Traditionally, training employees how to think innovatively stops there. This is because the training exercises don’t take the next step. No one asks what happens to the ideas that are generated. A good idea is meaningless if it’s gathering dust on a shelf. It’s a success only if it can get to market or be utilized in a way that provides value to the business.
Here are five steps on how to go from idea to market launch.
1. From the start, focus on the customer.
During the process of introducing people to the brainstorming and idea phase, encouraging a special focus on the customer will make the final idea more useable. Part of the customer-centric focus will naturally contain two simple questions: “Will the customer find this useful,” and “Can we bring this solution to market?” If both of these answers are “yes,” then the idea phase has the potential to make it to market.
2. It’s just as important to plan how to go to market.
Teaching the process of innovation is important. It is also usually focused solely on a product or service. This is important, but in reality, it is only a very small piece of the business puzzle. Giving teams time and space to think about how the product and / or service gets to market is probably even more important than the product or service itself. After teams have come up with an idea of how to solve customer needs issues, tell them to focus on how the company can bring this product to market. Not only will this give them practice of creative thinking and innovation, it will also teach them a valuable lesson about how the company works as a whole.
3. Visualize how the competition will react.
The teams have now formulated a world-class and game-changing product or service. They have also come up with how the product is going to get to market. It’s now time to brainstorm what might happen in the competitive landscape. Asking simple questions such as — “How will the competition react? Which competitor will this impact the greatest? What would we do if a competitor launched this product before us?” — will help plan for unforeseen events and a set of responses. In doing so, both the team and the company will have a far greater understanding of the industry as a whole.
4. Predict customer behavior.
Just as important as how competitors will react is how the customers themselves will react, and what that means for the bottom line. Are there any sorts of behavior that customers may take which changes the profitability of the product? For instance, offering a lifetime money-back guarantee or return policy may seem advantageous, but take a hard look at the cost of different customer reactions through simple financial modeling. By doing so, the participants will successfully look at the total life cycle of the solution.
5. Focus on the company, not just the solution.
Oftentimes, a lack of focus on the business results from too much narrow focus on the product or solution in isolation. This may be a fun exercise, but isn’t useful to the business as a whole. Taking the time to exhaust all possible solutions to the entire business process is critical. Ensuring teams have looked at the launch process exhaustively creates exceptionally valuable results to the company as a whole.
Teaching teams how to innovate through the entire product launch process is exceptionally valuable. Thinking about both the creative and business productivity sides of the equation fit together ensures that any product launch can be successful from beginning to end.
by WILLIAM HALL