More than 30 years ago, I published my undergraduate thesis “Research and Development in the UK and Japan: The Case of the Semiconductor Industry.” While studying economics and political science at Yale, I was very interested in how public policy, economics, and world politics impacted innovation in the high-tech industry, specifically the then-emerging market for semiconductors.  Fortunately, I received an A for my research and graduated, participated in an extended consulting internship, obtained my MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and enjoyed a summer with the tech giant IBM.

Back then, I knew I had found my calling in high-tech. After a 3-year stint in consulting and analytics, I joined Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the winter of 1988, one of 25,000 new employees hired by the #2 computer company at that time.  I wrote about that experience in my last blog, Innovation Adoption: What You Need To Know, and discussed how DEC failed to cross the chasm and reach broader, mainstream markets with higher (and profitable) market share.  In this blog, I will introduce and discuss the elements of a successful innovation road map.

What is a road map?

There are many thought leaders and pioneers around the topic of innovation adoption and management.  However, there is one who has caught my attention: Mark Dodgson.

Australian-born academic Dodgson’s research on innovation management has had a big impact around the world. He believes that we need to thoroughly understand the innovation process and the way it changes and evolves. Plus, he details how collaboration and technology plays a significant role in the innovation journey.

Although his work primarily focuses on the emerging biotech industry, he does provide insights that are just as important and applicable to the technological and organization aspects of innovation. Personally, I was struck at the parallel between my experiences more than 20 years ago and where we are now with the introduction of innovation technologies (also known as 3rd platform innovation accelerators) bringing about what IDC calls the 3rd platform era.

Most important, Dodgson identified a process for innovation – “thinking, playing, and doing.” Sounds like a road map to me!

The rapid innovation cycle

Most business leaders want to accelerate innovation and achieve rapid innovation. And for that to happen, organizations need to be agile at a high rate of speed, like a skilled hockey player flying down the ice for a chance to shoot at the goal and score. To achieve this fit, there is an endless amount of articles, ideas, and images of road maps to choose from. However, for me, the Rapid Innovation Cycle fits the bill.

Developed by the principals from BMGI, the Rapid Innovation Cycle is a multiphase project framework that includes  series of workshops and project work.  It consists of four phases:

Innovation Roadmap

Source: Elements of a Successful Innovation Road Map

  • Define and scope the innovation opportunity: The goal is to get into the customers’ shoes and determine the innovation opportunity from an outside-in perspective. This is what Clayton Christiansen, the renowned professor from Harvard Business School, calls “the job to be done” (JTBD). Here, we define outcome expectations (OEs) – the things that matter most when solving the problem.

  • Discover new ideas: In this phase, we engage in ideation and explore various ideas that can possibly solve the problem. Yes, this is brainstorming and it produces a large number of new and potential concepts.  Although this is hard, tiring work that can go on for an extended time period, this approach gives us an opportunity to capture, review, and research ideas, as required.
  • Develop design concepts for experimentation: Here, we build on the ideas from the previous phase and come up with concepts that can take us to the next level. A detailed description of a product or service and a baseline can help produce a rapid prototype that showcases the potential of a concept.
  • Demonstrate the new innovation through piloting and prototyping: This phase is all about turning the design concept into a prototype and collecting feedback and data.  It can be simulated, but the goal is to obtain intelligence quickly.  We then collect feedback from the team and key stakeholders. If it’s viable, we can take the innovation to a more robust development or execution phase.

At the end of the day, rapid innovation is what it’s all about – generate ideas, determine quickly their viability, and develop products and services that people actually want. Wow! For me, this is a déjà vu experience that harkens back to my time at DEC, a company that developed amazing products and technologies often years before there was any customer need or demand!

OK – enough with the theory of innovation.  In part three, we are thrilled to feature an interview with SAP executive and innovation expert Michel Sérié, who will introduce the Innovation Management Framework (IMF) and discuss a variety of approaches to bring successful innovation to fruition through leadership design thinking and innovation management approaches.

Want a head start?  Click here to read Michele’s recent blog on the topic.

For more forward-focused business strategies, see The Future Of Work: Understand, Prepare, And Innovate.