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Innovation has method(s) with us

Innovation projects can rarely be standardized. In our innovation workshops we therefore use different methods to meet the individual goals of our customers.

Innovation is as individual as the company that drives it forward. Each brings its own framework conditions with it. Therefore, the innovation process must also be individually designed.  

Technological innovations also take place in a context and are based on the actual needs of a company. Whether disruptive or incremental - every form of innovation is justified if it offers added value to the customer or user and contributes to the overall business objectives.

Early involvement in innovation creates long-term prospects

Our customers, who are now approaching us in the very early stages of their product development, have also recognized this. Sometimes it is not even about products, but about visions or perspectives with a horizon of up to 10 years.

Here we support our customers by developing requirements and/or innovative ideas together with their employees from different departments in workshops.

An accurate inventory

Before we conduct a workshop, we first have to identify exactly where the customer stands with his considerations.

  • Are there strategic guidelines?
  • Are there technologies that should be used?
  • Should a specific target group be addressed?
  • Is this new or established?
  • Has a user problem to be solved already been identified?
  • Are there concrete product ideas in the room?

We then review the information available to us as input and clarify the desired output. If necessary, we request further information.

Individual approach pays off

Every starting situation is different. A single design process for everything is therefore not target-oriented, as Greg Satell, author of "Mapping Innovation" also explains.

That is why we always tailor our workshops exactly to your needs. We use a variety of methods from various design processes already established in the market.

Proven overarching process approaches include Design Thinking (IDEO) and Lean Startup, a method for developing companies and products.

Depending on the task of the workshop, we use specific methods, including Value Proposition Design (which is based on the value proposition), Customer Journey Mapping, Jobs to be Done or Sprint (GV, formerly Google Ventures).

If a concrete scope is to be defined for a first product release, User Story Mapping, which graphically presents user stories and thus makes them easy to understand, also serves us well.

But which method is recommended for which project?

Graphic: Overview of the initial situations listed below with their location in the methodological environment

Five common initial scenarios and our methods of choice

In the following I will describe five prototypical initial situations that we encounter again and again in practice. And I show you the methods we would use in these cases.

We have already encountered all of the situations described above in practice. And we have successfully conducted all the workshops outlined here in almost exactly this form. The scenarios presented here are general for reasons of confidentiality.

Initial situation 1

Everything is possible - We are looking for visions for the future based on new (trend) technologies.

New technologies open up opportunities and simultaneously harbour risks. Will I be marginalized if I do not keep up? Or can I create added value for my customers precisely with this?

The trend technologies that we have been working on or are working on in the recent past include cloud services, home automation, Ultra HD (4K), Chatbots, augmented reality and virtual reality.

In the last two areas one is usually still very far away from a product. It is rather a matter of developing visions. Where could the journey lead? So we are looking for application scenarios that can be experienced in the form of prototypes.

A workshop could look like this in this situation:

We start with a Rapid Design Thinking Session, a method to tackle challenges quickly, practically and creatively. Crazy paper prototypes are created that express more or less realistic application ideas. A selection process borrowed from the Google Design Sprint - Speed Critique - helps to agree on an idea as a group. This idea is then worked out together as a story about the use of the new product with the help of visioning - a kind of group storytelling process that promotes the common vision.

This story is made visible as a live hand-drawn poster. With the help of storyboarding and user story mapping (described in more detail below) the idea is then concretized to the point where a pretty crazy but forward-looking prototype can be developed on this basis.

Left: A paper prototype, created in a Rapid Design Thinking Session | Right: Detail of a visioning poster

Initial situation 2

Next Generation - What could new products that leverage existing assets look like?

The customer has a functioning business model. But a changing competitive situation requires innovation. The target group can remain the same or be expanded.

The goal in this case is to identify new customer needs or problems. Solutions and products usually only need to be roughly sketched.

Als Ausgangspunkt eignen sich zum Beispiel Kontextinterviews mit Bestandskunden. Diese liefern Einblicke in die Erfahrungen der Nutzer mit den Produkten des Unternehmens. Um einen Überblick über diese Erfahrungen zu schaffen, entwickeln wir eine User Experience Journey Map. Diese macht bereits erste Optimierungspotenziale sichtbar.

The positive and negative experiences at the individual touchpoints then serve as material for an affinity diagram (Rapid Contextual Design). This creates clusters that describe higher-level problem areas in which innovative ideas can be sought.

In a further step from the Rapid Contextual Design process, the Wall Walk, the group develops many innovative ideas with which negative experiences can be avoided and positive ones promoted. After the best, so-called Hot Ideas, have been selected, the starting point for many product developments, which affect the entire product landscape, can also be created with the already described Visioning.

A User Journey Map is created

Initial situation 3

Start-up - Concrete product ideas that address a known user problem must be developed.

The search for ideas is much more concrete, for example in the case of start-ups. A target group and a user problem are usually identified. Here it goes directly to the canned goods: What exactly should the product look like? Which features could solve the problem?

In order to define what a product should ultimately achieve, the Jobs to be Done-Method is recommended. A job map, i.e. a graphic representation that also takes into account the various user groups, provides a rough overview of the functional areas or the rough workflow of the product. This ensures a common understanding of the project.

Details are then worked out using hand-drawn storyboards. On the one hand, manual drawing forces us to become concrete and on the other hand, not to get lost in details. The fact that the user himself degenerates in the drawings ensures that the product is designed "user-centered". On this basis, a wireframe mockup can be created.

Section of a UX Storyboard

Initial situation 4

Confrontation with reality - Does the user accept our solution?

A proven problem of the users and a solution that seems to make sense are no guarantee for the success of the product. On the contrary: The probability that the product or idea will flop is still very high. Certainly some hurdle that the user would have to overcome has been overlooked. Every product is based on assumptions. "Is there a need?" "Will the customer pay?" And so on.

The essential assumption here is: Is the determined solution also perceived as so useful from the customer's point of view that he is willing to give up his previous patterns of action?

In this case the Google Design Sprint process is recommended. In the workshop the assumptions (hypotheses) are identified with the help of this approach. A prototype is then developed in several intermediate stages, which, with minimal development effort, appears so real that test persons in a subsequent user test also believe it to be real. This is the only way to generate real user reactions that actually provide information about the strengths and weaknesses of the product idea.

Left: Invision Prototype | Right: User test

Initial situation 5

The egg-laying wool-milk sow - How to reduce the many feature ideas and speed up the launch

There is no product backlog, feature list or scope of a product that allows it to be developed in a reasonable time frame and with the budget provided. You have to reduce, or at least define a first version - often called "Minimum Viable Product (MVP)" - which will be the first to be released. The trick is to select the features that, taken together, still represent the core use case and also provide the desired benefits.

An absolutely secure method for this is User Story Mapping. Here, the product is formulated as user stories and thus describes a chronological sequence of product use. The user stories are written on Post-Its and stuck to the wall along a horizontal line.

User Story Mapping Workshop

Then the very rough user stories are broken down into subtasks (i.e. subordinate tasks) and stuck in vertical rows under the corresponding user stories.

These subtasks are then again sorted by importance from top to bottom.

If you now draw a horizontal line after the first two subtasks, all user stories and subtasks above them describe the MVP.

You can read more about this in one of the next blog posts.

Josef Jaud

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