The discovery phase of the innovation is exciting, as it brings forth ideas that, if nurtured correctly, bloom into everything from incremental improvements to transformative products and businesses. In short, it represents the innovation timeline's ‘anything’s possible’ period. On the outside, discovery may conjure visions of brainstormed thoughts scribbled on whiteboards. Still, for innovation and product pros, there is a science that is fully aligned to a strong InnovationOps approach to innovation.
We’ve discussed InnovationOps frequently lately, as it represents a cutting-edge innovation approach that brings together the people, processes and innovation jobs to be done. It allows departments and teams to focus on the jobs to be done intuitively and flexibly, emphasizing moving the organization toward its broader innovation goals. And for many it starts with the discovery phase. Let’s look at how discovery is critical for driving long-term innovation predictability and success and how it sets the tone for successful innovation.
Discovery reduces risk and increases confidence
An interesting possibility emerges in idea development, but it’s still too early to fully understand a potential product’s risk profile (as compared to its potential value and reward). So in the discovery stage, it’s essential to uncover potential risk factors as quickly as possible to determine whether the organization should move forward or kill it. And to be clear, you must have a ‘fail fast, fail cheaply’ mindset. All too often, companies fall in love with the cool factor and disregard possible warning signs that will grow in significance down the road.
Additionally, weeding out risk early in idea development will build a track record for discovery success and increase decision-makers confidence in the discovery process. We’d all agree that it’s best to find risk while investments are limited instead of uncovering an issue just prior to launch or even worse after launch. Ideas are killed at every stage of the innovation process, so getting the discovery phase right and getting assumptions answered is the fundamental process within discovery that we're trying to solve.
Discovery’s role in innovation
To reduce risk early, successful discovery seeks to validate ideas by testing and learning in the problem and solution spaces. While there are many nuances, discovery is essentially trying to answer three crucial questions:
Does anyone want this product?
It’s easy to be blinded by bright, shiny objects, but product success is more than new technology — it’s also about solving customer problems. This is where having continuous conversations with customers and potential customers becomes so valuable. Sometimes they can articulate challenges they need solved, and other times, they may not be able to identify the problem. However, when you know your customers inside and out and continuously check-in, you may start to see challenges emerging early on.
Can we deliver this product?
In discovery, it’s crucial to determine the feasibility of moving forward. Examine if you have the personnel, manufacturing/tech capabilities or portfolio history to transition a great idea into a needle-moving product.
Will it create value?
It’s important to note that value can be viewed in many ways. First, there’s the fiscal consideration — will the organization make money? But it’s also vital to consider the reputational value and what the market will think of your organization delivering this product. For example, consider the growing focus on sustainable innovation. Even if a proposed product checks all the proverbial boxes, it could be killed in discovery if it doesn’t align with an organization’s sustainability goals. Such a move could damage an organization’s reputation.
Discovery is a critical part of InnovationOps
The hope is that discovery leads to a disruptive product that bolsters your portfolio, but the long-term value is often found in testing ideas and the insights you can gain from contrasting original assumptions against results — even if an idea never makes it past discovery. You can take learnings and apply them to future ideas and products, and discovery can help organizations identify the process and make refinements moving forward.
So how does this align with InnovationOps? The lessons from the discovery process serve as the first step to an organization-wide knowledge base that everyone can access and apply to other learnings. Again, InnovationOps brings together people, processes, and innovation jobs to be done and removes barriers that handcuff insights to specific teams and departments. Organizations that have perfected InnovationOps keep those learnings in a space that helps all teams across the innovation spectrum get faster and better while building this unique knowledge base.
And as a byproduct, they now have a cyclical discovery process for creating goals, ideating against and aligning those goals, testing the best of those ideas, learning from the testing to create new ideas, and continuing around this circle of continuous discovery.
Want to learn more? I recently explored this topic in deep detail in the second installment of the Sopheon Mastering Innovation webinar series, entitled “The Power of Discovery.” And learn how Sopheon’s Acclaim Ideas can help organizations enhance their discovery process.