How to find the sweet spot for your innovation project?


Business innovation projects need a different mindset

You want to generate extra revenue for your business, right? But where do you start? Just tweaking your existing product or service offering will not make a big difference. Business innovation projects similar to the ones we are running are focused on finding new offerings, potentially for new markets. In general we see that innovation teams or their stakeholders in bigger corporates are not used to this kind of break-through challenges. So, here’s a starter.

The Dreamer - An exercise to get your team involved

When your innovation team comes together for the first time you will need to discuss the scope of your business innovation project. But where do you start? Here is a basic exercise to spur the discussion. Ask everyone to bring 3 visuals each (3 x 1 picture printed on A4 sheets). They should think of future “dream” innovations for the company. By stating this very open dream question you’ll immediately step away from the down-to-earth daily business.

Most of them (not all) will bring cases that instantly will trigger a very vibrant conversation. Almost regardless of the industry you will notice that many team members will come up with the following 2 topics:

Pitfall 1: The hype of the moment
Depending on the season people will just ‘spice up’ the current services. A couple of years back participants would make everything wireless. Today everything should be touch. Running a car business? Add a touchscreen! Selling soap? Make it touch-sensitive! Next year it will be something else.

Pitfall 2: Star-trek-ovations
While Wifi & multitouch might sound realistic, there will be other team members that will live their childhood dreams! Holograms, flying cars, self-serving fridges and robots everywhere. Cool concepts? Yes, but they don’t solve real needs and/or are often impossible to make.

Lesson for your team - align the innovation scope

Have a group discussion after everyone presented their 3 concepts. Stick all the visuals to the wall and sort them according to a realistic commercial roll-out. The goal of this session is to align the expectations regarding the scope of the innovation project that you started. Typical you’re looking for business innovations that might take 2-5 years to be launched on the market. Things that could be launched sooner are usually incremental innovations, depending on the sector. On the other hand, products that need 5+ years of development don’t bring in revenue on the short term.

One concrete output of this workshop exercise is that people realize that technology needs years, sometimes decades, to penetrate the market. On the other hand it means that the technology that you would like to integrate is already out there in labs or prototypes. Humans are very bad at predicting the future. Already for 20 years people are dreaming of leaving the shopping mall with automatic payment via their shopping cart. Ain’t gonna happen … at least not in the coming decade.

Try to find more cases and examples like this to get the message across!


I’m Nick De Mey, founder Board of Innovation and foresight analyst at Venturesight – foresight-backed venture design. Let’s talk!

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