The goal of any new product development process is to bring something new or better to market in a faster and cheaper manner. In some cases, traditional research tools can hinder the innovation process. This discussion will focus on how and why this happens and what businesses can do to improve research tools and processes that inform their product development and go-to-market process.
How does this happen?
At a high level, there are two big issues associated with the traditional New Product Development process and the tools used to drive it.
1. Often the process causes unintended hurdles which delays the ability to go-to-market
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the individual research tools that companies use within their NPD process. The issue, however, is that many companies assume that they need to check every box — meaning every research tool in each phase — to ensure they’ve left no stone unturned. The result: Time to market is slowed, the backlog of new ideas grows, and very few new products actually make it to the customer.
2. The Process can introduce risk, not reduce it
In any product development process, the goal of research is simple: to reduce risk as much as possible before the company puts significant resources behind a new, untested idea. This is standard practice and, in theory, it makes a lot of sense. That said, at a time when innovation is happening faster than ever before, these research methodologies can also hinder the speed of innovation. And that hindrance can create risk.
This is a particularly common issue in companies that haven’t aligned the research process with specific goals or objectives. In these cases, the research process can become so slow and cumbersome that it actually introduces risk by exhausting resources and preventing the business from getting viable new product opportunities to market in a timely manner (and before the market has moved on).
An Alternative Approach to Innovation Research
So, what does all of this mean for the role of research tools in today’s innovation environment? In our opinion, it isn’t the tools that are broken. It’s the way in which companies use them that needs to be fixed. Simply put, businesses must find a way to enhance their use of traditional research tools in ways that create a more agile and efficient innovation process.
At ORC, we’ve come up with a process that looks at the information that’s needed to make faster, smarter decisions through a more iterative research process. This process tries to overcome the obstacles above by relying on traditional tools in a more strategic and agile way. We do this by focusing on three key steps:
1. Prioritize your ideas: In this phase, the objective is to assess the strength of an opportunity and the risks associated with pursuing it. To do this, you need to assign innovation to one of three buckets:
• Renovation: Tweaking an existing product to generate more demand for it
•Transformation: Redesigning the business model around a specific idea to generate growth and demand
• Creation: Developing something truly “new.” Very simply, these are the innovative ideas that have the potential to disrupt status quo in a market.
Again, the goal in this step is to prioritize your innovations around some objective for the business. This could include revenue growth, market share, or cost reduction. It’s critical to evaluate the business goal for each new idea and identify the information gaps needed to reduce the risk associated with pursuing it.
2. Determine the value of your information gaps:
• Once you have prioritized your ideas it is critical to assess the value of your existing information gaps. For each gap, determine how important the information is and its availability in order to launch your innovation. Based on these criteria you can build a road map to fill your information gaps. Often internal data exists or perhaps it can be obtained easily through secondary research or competitive intelligence to satisfy your information needs. If data isn’t readily available traditional qualitative or quantitative methods will be needed.
3. Information gathering:
• At this point you have a good understanding of what information you need and how to collect it. At ORC, we have used an iterative data collection approach that helps improve the speed to market by providing a continuous feedback loop to fill your information gaps. This iterative process helps you more efficiently optimize your innovation. Often the process includes online communities — what we call “digital hives” and can encompass several traditional research tools like focus groups, concept testing, product testing, and pricing research in a very compact, iterative manner.
The Final Phase: Developing a Better, Smarter Go-to-Market Strategy
By modifying your NPR Process to include these three steps you’ll find yourself at the end of the process with a thorough understanding of the value of your product, the demand for it, the positioning and messaging around it, and how to price it. In other words, you’ll be fully prepared to develop and finalize a clear go-to-market strategy for your new idea.
Best of all, you’ll arrive at this point in a more agile, iterative manner, which has a number of key benefits:
• Reduced risk through faster qualification and disqualification of ideas
• Optimized product offerings for specific customer needs
• Improved speed-to-market
Simply put, your innovations will reach the right people in the right market sooner. And they’ll do so in a way that saves your business an enormous amount of time and resources.
For more information on avoiding pitfalls in the innovation process, please see our white paper, ‘Avoiding New Product Development Traps’, or read our blog, ‘Inspiring Smart Innovation (and Avoiding the Inane!)‘.