Blog Roderik Sorbi – Senior Consultant
‘Throwing the baby out with the bathwater’
This Dutch saying finds its origin in the time where the kids of the household were the last to take their weekly bath. By the time they went into the bath, the water was so cloudy, you could easily lose someone in it. The same applies for many innovation ideas.
For many brands, innovation is vital to realise brand growth. Still, 70-80% of product innovations fail in their first year. Innovation success is never a coincidence, but the result of perseverance, the right insight and decisions.
“It’s not an idea problem, it’s a recognising problem”, wrote David Burkus in one of his publications in Harvard Business Review. “A lot of companies try to start their innovation efforts with the assumption of needing more ideas. Innovation is not limited by the lack of ideas, but by the lack of recognising that the good ideas are already there”, said by the Professor of Leadership & Innovation of the Oral Roberts University, a top university in the US.
‘Killer research robots’
The daily battle for consumers and the pressure from stakeholders makes time to market more important than ever. The Stage Gate Process is therefore meant to increase efficiency and effectivity during the entire innovation process. However, many current tests limit themselves to the traditional parameters for success, likes/dislikes and the standard text highlighter that indicates which words in the concept make the idea credible, relevant and unique. By using these ‘killer research robots’, innovation managers miss the deeper insights to recognise the potential in promising ideas. They are missing valuable input to give their concepts a last push, to get to the finish line with flying colours.
Let me give an example. According to a Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Report, relevance is the number 1 cause of success. Where relevance is of course determined by the consumer insight. If that insight doesn’t resonate, the concept will falter like a house of cards. The consumer insight of warm meals is mostly revolved around variation. And after you have read a concept like that, you are asked in surveys if you find it relevant. But of course, no one wants to eat Brussels sprouts every day, so respondents tick the box in under a second, and move on to the next question.
“Don’t ask me questions, just give me your answers…!”
We skip the deeper question: which personal meaning do you give to the insight? My associations, feelings and emotions are different to my wife’s. For one person it’s more about the richer flavour that variation brings, to another it’s more about eating enough healthy options. The friction can be the same, but the core meaning and expectations a person grants to such an insight – the anchor of the idea – can differ. And with that, a concept falters, or stands.
Validating and exploring
“A solution for the current ‘idea killer’ problem, is to change the structure of how ideas should go through”, according to David Burkus. “A company already has good ideas and the market just makes them better in finding those ideas.” This brought us to the idea of fully integrating mass qualitative techniques in our innovation research portfolio a couple of years ago; from insights generation to product testing. By asking open-ended questions and letting respondents tell us personal stories surrounding an insight and by adding free associations, we learn from spontaneous, unprejudiced reactions on ideas, concepts and products. It gives marketers the opportunity to understand the ‘truth’ behind the results a lot better. By validating and exploring at the same time, new insights are created. As a result, you might not have to throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet.