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Innovation Management

Winning Ideas and Beyond: 4 Steps to Effective Product Concept Development Workshops

Published By Guest Blogger

Are you utilizing concept development workshops as part of your ideation processes? Are you coming up with and executing on winning ideas? If not, you’ve come to the right place. This blog post will help you understand the value of concept development workshops and the steps you can take to find out if those winning ideas you have are the right ones to implement.

So, you just ran an innovation challenge, captured ideas—some good, some not—and selected the ideas you believe will immediately impact your business.

Now, you’re ready to implement the ideas and bask in all the ROI glory, right?

Not so fast.

The reality is, most ideas that come out of crowdsourced innovation challenges are underdeveloped. They’re at such an early stage in their lifecycle that they’re typically just a small component of what they could actually become with further development.

Take the early days of Apple, for example. When Steve Jobs visited Xerox in 1979, he came across the technology we know today as the mouse. At the time, Xerox was not actively entertaining the idea of selling the technology. In other words, they had a revolutionary idea on their hands and didn’t see the potential—Jobs did.

Inspired by his Xerox visit, Jobs and his team went to work on designing a mouse for personal computers that would go on to become a staple for the product category for generations to come.

Imagine if Xerox saw the same mass potential of the mouse as Jobs did. Imagine if the Xerox team sat down to brainstorm the technology’s use cases and concluded that it would be foolish not to turn the technology into a consumer good.

The point here is that it’s important to take a step back and spend time looking at an idea from every angle—leave no stone unturned. The extra time spent developing it could uncover opportunities for something much greater than you initially thought possible.

What do you think are the biggest barriers to moving winning ideas forward? Bill Truettner, Senior Account Manager, Planview IdeaPlace polled webinar attendees and discussed the poll results in the Top Techniques for Ensuring Your Winning Ideas Get Funded webinar. The top three barriers to moving ideas forward are:

  • Risk-averse culture: 47%
  • Resources are constrained: 27%
  • Ideas are not well formed: 20%

Truettner introduces an effective method to breakthrough and overcome those barriers so ideas are developed into meaningful results. He reinforces how important collaboration is to this method by referencing the Mohan Subramaniam and Mark A. Youndt study by stating, “The ability to collaborate in networks is more important than the raw individual talent to innovativeness.”

This method includes taking a new idea that adds value and exploring the idea by looking at these five key actions:

  1. Context: Where does the idea come from? What are the circumstances surrounding the idea?
  2. Solution and Benefit: Can we do it, and how would that be a benefit?
  3. Answer “How?”: How do we implement the improvement? What should we not do?
  4. Overcoming Risk: Perform some bullet proofing to reduce risk.
  5. Cost/Return Analysis: Understand what it will take to implement the idea and the kind of return you can expect from the idea.

How to Develop a True Winning Idea

One technique that’s effective for idea development is facilitating “concept development workshops.” In such workshops, a small group of people with different skill sets, experiences, and expertise work together to develop an idea or set of ideas.

Their goal is to look at an idea from every possible angle and to capture every potential growth opportunity and possible barrier. Having a diverse group working together enables this because it leverages a diversity in thought.

For innovation programs, a concept development workshop should take place after a crowdsourced innovation challenge has been completed. The goal here is to encourage the group to put each idea through its paces and explore every opportunity, the resources needed to bring it to life, and potential hurdles to look out for—think of this as a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats Analysis, but for ideas.

Why bother with these workshops at all? Simple.

Companies often get tripped up when going from idea to implementation because, when faced with a great idea or two, they want to move immediately to implementation without proper vetting. This eagerness, while understandable, is what increases the chances of an idea failing to live up to expectations. As an innovation leader, this is the last thing you want.

Without proper idea development, companies run the risk of wasting valuable resources or, like Xerox, missing opportunities that could make a significant impact to the bottom line.


4 Concept Development Workshops Steps

When running a concept develop workshop, there are four steps to keep in mind to ensure it becomes a valuable part of the idea development process.

  1. Create a situation description.

A situation description lists the core insights behind an idea and the problem being solved. It details why an idea is important and how it relates to corporate strategy and priorities. Mind mapping on a white board is useful at this stage.

This enables workshop participants to gain a deeper understanding of the problem. This level setting helps bring clarity around how each idea aligns with the problem that’s being addressed.

  1. Brainstorm a desired improvement and reverse engineer it.

Start with the end in mind and reverse engineer the process by working backwards.

For example, let’s say you are working at an energy company. Your big 2019 priority is to significantly improve the customer experience—this is your desired improvement. With this in mind, you now work backwards and look at ideas that ultimately get you to your desired improvement.

Spending time brainstorming what the ideal improvement looks like helps focus the energy of participants on developing ideas that accomplish the desired outcome.

  1. De-risk and validate.

De-risking and validation ensure that every possible hurdle that could lead to failure is identified and includes a discussion about how to overcome those hurdles with regulations. This step requires workshop participants to have a different mindset. They need to look at an idea with a critical eye and think through why the idea won’t work. By having all the reasons why an idea won’t work on the table, it becomes easier to determine what will work.

  1. Create an opportunity statement.

The opportunity statement is one of the most critical pieces of information because it outlines all the reasons why leadership should invest resources into implementing an idea or set of ideas. Ideally, you want to map each reason back to company priorities and goals.

Think of the opportunity statement as your pitch to the executive team. Just like any pitch, you need to outline the opportunities. Without this statement, unless it’s a mandate directly from executives, it becomes harder to sell an idea which then makes it difficult to get the necessary funding.

Final Thoughts

A concept development workshop is a great option for companies that want to have a small team of subject matter experts evaluate and develop ideas that come out of crowdsourced innovation challenges.

The bottom line is that you stand a far better chance of success if you give ample time for proper idea development. The last thing you want to do is fast track what you believe to be “winning ideas” to implementation only to have them come up short or miss the mark entirely.

Learn how Planview® Planview IdeaPlace facilitates innovation management and watch the webinar, Top Techniques for Ensuring Your Winning Ideas Get Funded to learn more about how effective concept development workshops improve how winning ideas are moved forward through strong collaboration among key subject matter experts throughout your organization.

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Written by Guest Blogger