Stop talking. Start Doing. How to Take the Innovation Leap.
I used to work in advertising. Imagine massive teams of account executives, strategists, developers and creatives tasked to build massive, integrated campaigns. Especially, when we were pitching a new company or client.
At the risk of oversimplifying, the first step in this process was to let the strategy teams come up with a plan.
They would do some research.
Develop an understanding of the core consumer.
Identify what motivated them to care about the product or service.
Then they would build a brief.
And then the debate would begin.
Is the strategy sound?
Is the consumer the right consumer?
Is this really what motivates them?
Then we would develop creative territories.
And the second debate would begin.
Is the creative on strategy?
Is it going to resonate with the right consumer?
Will the idea motivate them?
Does it have legs?
So many late nights. So many arguments. So much analysis paralysis. But eventually, someone would break away from the pack.
Someone would take the leap.
Oftentimes, at this one global shop I worked at, it was this veteran Creative Director. He would go to war with the entire team about why 2 or 3 areas were the right way to go. And, more often than not, we would follow his lead.
My boss called him a “first mover”.
“What is that?” I asked.
My boss responded, “The person who’s confident enough to get started, even though they may not have every single answer.”
“But what if they’re wrong?” I asked.
My boss smiled. “Well, it’s easier to pivot if you have momentum. And you’ll never get anywhere, unless you take that first step.”
Did the territories change? More often than not, yes. But did having someone push us out of the birds nest force us to figure it out?
The Innovation Leap
Now that I work in innovation and support global Consumer Insight and R&D teams, I think about this scenario a lot. Because while our research platform offers a tremendous amount of insight, and we can calculate predictions that are incredibly accurate, we simply can’t control our client's organizational culture.
So at some point, someone is forced to take a leap.
Luckily, the majority of the organizations we work with don’t rely on a person being the ‘first mover’. Instead they have trigger points built into their innovation process, to help them determine whether they have reached a level of confidence where they are ready to take action.
Others understand that different parts of the organization require different types of research inputs in order to build the collective confidence for the organization. These organizations take our cultural data (microcultures of meaning) which point toward the future. They then use sales data as an overlay (to get a sense of what is currently happening in the market). This serves as a nice way to see where the gaps are.
But some organizations lack the internal structure to “build momentum”.
In those companies, it's usually up to an individual to be the “first mover”. These people have vision, are highly motivated and love to push boundaries. They rally teams, build consensus, and drive innovation.
But, if these people leave the organization, then you are often left with a team that gets so focused on barriers and limitations that the innovation train ceases to leave the station.
Avoiding Analysis Paralysis
In January, David Farber posted a great article called Avoiding Analysis Paralysis: When to make a decision. In it, he talks about how many innovation teams struggle with constantly worrying about having all the answers and alleviating all the risks. David says:
“The more I thought about it, the more I realized that today’s focus on iterative design and test-and-learn loops can, if not implemented properly, create a hazard for organizations. Even companies with “agile mentalities” and well-constructed Stage-Gate innovation processes often find themselves getting stuck in endless loops of testing without moving forward. While I wholeheartedly advocate finding opportunities to mitigate risk with research and adopting a “fail fast” attitude, innovation is ultimately about commercializing new things.”
David then goes on to outline 5 keys to avoiding analysis paralysis. Namely:
Customer Feedback — Validate that you are solving a real problem.
Market Sizing — Determine that the problem you are solving affects a large enough population.
Strategic Fit — Decide whether your organization is the right one to solve the problem.
Risk Analysis — Identify the risks you might encounter and create a plan to mitigate them.
Business Model Viability — Ensure that the organization has the technical ability to create the solution and that doing so is financially viable.
As I read David’s article, it struck me how well this framework he had built aligns with the type of work we do at the very frontend of innovation. Because one of the most valuable uses of our MotivBase suite of tools is that they can be used to reduce the risk and anxiety that can lead to analysis paralysis.
1. Customer Feedback
One of the core features of MotivBase is to provide a consumer-led perspective of culture in the context of a product, category or service delivered by our clients. MotivBase Trends uses contextual analysis to identify the dominant meanings that consumers are naturally associating with a topic or trend. This includes both the direct associations that they are making, but also the indirect associations.
The end result is a map of the dominant meanings that are shaping interest, expectations and opinion around anything and everything. We call this a cultural analysis but it is, in essence, untainted consumer feedback revealing the most dominant meanings the attach to a topic that could impact your business. Secondly, MotivBase Needs uses consumer review data to deliver detailed joy and pain points. This allows us to not only identify occasions of usage, and the steps that consumers are taking when using a product. It allows us to surface the dominant Jobs To Be Done to assure that a new innovation is being tailored to solve the most dominant problems consumers face in the market.
2. Market Sizing
When I asked a client why our ability to size both the maturity of any topic in culture (and how many people it is relevant to) was so valuable, she said that sales data is a snapshot of today. MotivBase gives her the market size of tomorrow. Even better, our predictive model can anticipate how quickly a trend is growing with over 80% accuracy.
3 .Strategic Fit
Mapping meanings is only one part of our IP. The second is having an AI Anthropology engine that can look at the language used when consumers engage around a topic or trend, and determine the dominant motivations, attitudes, values and fears that consumers are revealing.
This provides our clients with an ethnographic DNA that helps them confirm that their potential innovation is emotionally targeting the right consumer.
4. Risk Analysis
Within every macroculture, there are microcultures that need to be considered if you want to understand how an idea will be interpreted and how to create a product that will be embraced. By grouping dominant meanings, and sizing their maturity and relevance, we can not only look at the potential of a trend, but we can dissect the most dominant demand spaces that are propelling it forward to identify opportunities and threats to innovation. If you want to see an example, check out this sample report.
5. Business Model Viability
As you can imagine, this falls on our clients. But with all four of the above topics supported, our clients can focus more on thinking through their channel strategy, if the organization has the necessary startup capital, where they may need to depend on outside partners, and other key aspects of making the project viable.
The beauty of this, is that when armed with the above information, you are not only armed to shut down any naysayers in your organization. But you have the confidence to take action. And if you are in senior leadership, you have a resource that can better inform your team, so that they have the insight and data they need to be “first movers”.
If you're interested in learning more about how to leverage MotivBase for innovation, email firstname.lastname@example.org