Given the level of disruption caused by COVID-19, many businesses are going to need a robust innovation framework in order to support effective innovation and adapt to the new normal.
Innovation is a competitive imperative for all businesses, not just start-ups and large corporates. This means that owner-operated businesses and SMEs generally, need to find a way to engage in ongoing innovation.
An ideal solution for SMEs to manage disruption and maximise long-term success, is to develop their innovation competencies by adopting a practical innovation framework. That is, a framework that focusses on securing solutions within the bounds of what:
People (the users of an innovation) truly need or desire, at a deeper rational and emotional level
Is technically feasible for the business to achieve
Is economically viable/profitable for the business to produce
Three Critical Questions
Regardless of whether the user is internal to the business or an external party (such as a customer), you need an innovation framework that allows you to address the questions:
Do we know our user(s)?
Do we understand the real needs of our users?
Can we meet those needs (technically and cost- effectively)?
That is, a structured approach to solution development that encourages a mindset of curiosity and discovery within the context of the business’s strategic direction so that you can:
Focus on the intended users of the innovation, their needs and desires (and avoid assuming they simply replicate your values, beliefs and needs)
Ensure that your innovation efforts are focused on solving the right problem(s) and avoid the temptation to make assumptions about critical aspects of the problem your innovation is seeking to solve
Focus on the viability and feasibility of your innovation efforts (keeping them grounded in the practical constraints you operate within)
Promote the cognitive flexibility needed to adapt to a variety of challenges
Empower creativity and encourage experimentation and learning without making unfounded assumptions or jumping straight into solution mode
Benefits of an Innovation Framework
When applied correctly, an innovation framework offers a disciplined approach that powers:
Meaningful differentiation that contributes to your competitive advantage
Strategic management of your business
Fortitude’s User-Driven Innovation Framework
Fortitude’s User-Driven Innovation Framework is illustrated at the end of the blog and consists of four major components that seek to:
Establish the prerequisites needed for efficient and effective innovation activity
Explore the problem the innovation opportunity aims to address, to build understanding and ensure you solve the right problem
Ensure you take the right approach to explore the range of potential solutions and to arrive at the most suitable solution in an efficient and effective manner
Capture the commercial value by taking the solution to market, encouraging adoption and driving demand
Each major component of the Fortitude User-Driven Innovation Framework incorporates the concepts of divergent and convergent thinking where the:
Divergent thinking process seeks to generate creative ideas by exploring many possibilities (a process that relies heavily on intuition and creativity)
Convergent thinking process seeks to test and evaluate the possibilities generated during the divergent thinking process, to narrow and refine the field of options to those most promising (a process that relies on more traditional analytical thinking)
In the framework, the diamond shapes of each phase depict these concepts. The expanding lines represent divergent thinking as they move away from the central nodes. The contracting lines depict the concept of convergent thinking as they move towards the central nodes.
Each expansion and contraction represents a separate phase in the User-Driven Innovation Framework.
In addition to the four phases involved with the User-Driven Innovation Framework, the core practices of empathy, prototyping, and experimentation underpin the process.
These practices are not discrete steps in the process, but foundation practices that are applied throughout the User-Driven Innovation.
Ultimately, the User-Driven Innovation Framework seeks to utilise the best of both the creative and the analytical aspects of thinking to overcome the inadequacies of either one approach.