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Ideation: your foundation for new product success

Developing and growing new products and services is a core focus for innovation in many companies. Based on our experience with dozens of product and service innovations, as well as a survey of the literature, we have developed a simple but powerful framework for managing the product lifecycle comprising three broad phases: ideation, commercialization and evolution.

In this framework, ideation covers the stages from idea through funding; commercialization covers development through launch; and evolution covers life cycle management - evolving the product offering over time to maximize long term product profitability and value. In this article, we will explore ideation in more detail. Subsequent articles will cover commercialization and evolution.

In our model, ideation is a holistic process to generate, qualify and secure funding for new product and service ideas. This definition differs from the more common use of ideation to cover just the idea generation stage. We define it more broadly, as in our view moving from initial idea through to securing funding is an integrated sub-process that requires relatively little investment, and has a clear end-point – the decision to invest in a promising new product or service. Following that decision, commercialization begins, a phase with very different characteristics.

In many companies ideation is the most neglected and poorly performed phase. Many companies rush into product development based on a limited pool of ideas, with little understanding of real market potential. Conversely, some companies have begun exploring ways to expand the range and sources of innovative ideas, but do not have in place an effective system to select and focus on the best ideas.

At the same time, ideation is the phase where improvement often yields the biggest payoff. The difference between generating, selecting and focusing the best product ideas on the most attractive market opportunities, and coming up with fewer, average ideas and giving them no clear focus, is enormous. This difference is very real to many companies – in terms of capital invested, product time-to-market, sales growth and long term value created.

Building on the work of thought leaders like Henry Chesbrough, Robert Cooper, Scott Edgett, Rowan Gibson, Vijay Jolly and Peter Skarzynski, our ideation framework comprises six steps. It encompasses a systematic approach to generating ideas from diverse sources, and a risk-optimized methodology for moving viable ideas through to commercialization. The quality of the ideas, and the time, effort and risk involved, is relatively low to begin, and increases with each step. This ensures that you consider a wide range of options, but really focus on the small set of options with the greatest

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