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How Can You Create a Reliable Innovation Process?

David Gotteland est professeur de marketing à Grenoble Ecole de Management
Published on
21 June 2018

Innovation is essential to the survival of a company. However, three studies(1) published by the Product Development and Management Association highlight the fact that only 15% of innovation attempts are successful. How can you solidify your innovation process to reduce the chances of failure?

David Gotteland is a professor and research at Grenoble Ecole de Management and an expert in the field of marketing. He shares with us an analysis of fundamental research that can boost the reliability of innovation processes.

Of all the key steps in an innovation process, it's most difficult to achieve reliability during the first step, often known as the fuzzy front-end or the step during which new ideas for products or services are created. As a result, it's essential that the creative methods used at the beginning of an innovation process enable a company to generate "good" innovation opportunities. In other words, you have to dream up new products or services that will be both useful and original from the perspective of an end-user.

Creative methods: formatted versus free-flowing

There is an abundance of creative methods which academic research has classified into two categories (Toubia, 2006).

  • "Free" creative methods such as brainstorming are based on the principle that an individual will be more creative if he or she is not limited during the creative process.
  • Formatted" creative methods are based on the principle that an individual's creativity can be increased by applying a systematic and organized framework. This will be our area of focus.

Among various existing formatted methods, the fundamental concepts method has been shown to help increase innovation performance. It was demonstrated that, if used properly, it can increase originality and perceived usefulness by 15% (Goldenberg, Mazursky et Solomon, 1999).

How to implement it?

The fundamental concepts method is based on two steps. First, an offer (product or service) is broken down into internal components (under the control of the manufacturer) and external ones (outside the control of the manufacturer). Component characteristics are also listed.

For example, a clothes iron is made up of a surface material, a handle and a reservoir (internal components). But without clothes, a user and an ironing board (external components), the clothes iron loses its usefulness for the end user.

In the second step, the offer is reorganized in an original manner which enables participants to generate new ideas for products or services.

There are five general ways in which to proceed with this step

  • Create new links between two components that were not linked in the pre-existing offer. For example, you can imagine a clothes iron surface could be tied directly to the user’s hand to create a “glove” clothes iron.
  • Create new links between two characteristics. For example, you could link the size of the iron surface to the size of the clothing being ironed. The clothes iron could adapt to the size of the clothing (e.g., ironing a tie versus ironing a bedsheet).
  • Remove a component: a clothes iron without a handle could become a “robot” iron.
  • Replace a component: the ironing surface could be replaced by an ironing surface or closet.
  • Divide a component: the ironing surface could be separated into two parts in order to adapt to small or large pieces of clothing.

This is how the fundamental concepts method can help increase the reliability of the innovation process right from the start. To help facilitate the use of this method and implement it easily, Grenoble Ecole de Management developed the serious game Creanov©. This fun and easily accessible board game was awarded the CIDEGEF-FNEGE Innovation in Education prize (2018). The game is on sale

(1) Bibliography

Barczak, G., Griffin, A. & Kahn, K.B., 2009. PERSPECTIVE: Trends and Drivers of Success in NPD Practices: Results of the 2003 PDMA Best Practices Study. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 26(1), pp.3–23.

Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S., 1999. Toward Identifying the Inventive Templates of New Products: A Channeled Ideation Approach. Journal of Marketing Research, 36(2), pp.200–210.

Toubia, O., 2006. Idea Generation, Creativity, and Incentives. Marketing Science, 25(5), pp.411–425.

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