Breaking innovation taboos
High-participation approaches to idea generation, like contests, hackathons, and crowdsourcing, provide opportunities for large and diverse populations to generate new ideas or to solve difficult problems. These programs improve the chances of finding a good idea and fully leverage the collective wisdom of a company’s internal crowd.
However, a high volume of ideas can lead to paralysis—the more ideas you generate, the more difficult it becomes to identify the good ones. It also puts a lot of pressure on senior executives who like to say yes to good ideas to drive motivation and encourage participation. This just spreads the peanut butter across the portfolio of ideas, giving ideas you will never do the same chances as ones you really should.
The fix means breaking some innovation taboos. You need to put boundaries around what ideas you want to receive. Invite ideas within tightly defined ‘swim-lanes’ that permit a diversity of ideas but within strategic boundaries. That way you get fewer ideas but more that are likely to align with the firm’s strategic intent, resources, and core competencies.
We call these boundaries Hunting Zones. These are the market areas where you have the best chances of realizing your strategic ambition. These may be places where the commercial opportunities are greatest and where the company’s unique strengths have the best chance of neutralizing a competitor.
A Hunting Zone is attractive if:
- There are multiple customer problems to solve
- There is a willingness to pay to solve the problem (by the user or someone else)
- It exploits a megatrend in society or technology
- Good revenue potential in next 3-5 years
- You have or can acquire assets to scale a business – customers, capabilities, capacity
- It is an emerging market, with no dominant ecosystem player
A great example of this is our client UNIQA, a multi-billion-dollar insurance company operating in twenty-seven countries in Europe. UNIQA has an ambition to create new businesses in healthcare. We helped them to develop several hunting zones for realizing this ambition. This gave them clear areas for creating new businesses now being scaled by its new health unit, SanusX.
The Hunting Zones came from rigorous analysis of the customer journey for both healthy and sick individuals – the get healthy, stay healthy journeys. We used surveys, focus groups, and interviews to gather ‘out-of-the-building’ data on customer problems in these journeys. We were looking for breakpoints where the journey let customers down. We then looked at the money flows to find out if someone may be willing to solve these problems. Where these two factors overlapped, we found a Hunting Zones. This has led to new business in mental health, elderly care, and employee healthcare.
Innovation strategy is about making choices. Hunting Zones provide boundaries to focus attention and resources on opportunities most likely to help you achieve your Ambition. It sets the organization free to generate ideas you want and are more likely to fund. These choices will increase the odds of innovation success and motivate the team because they see a result from their participation.
Read the case study about our work with UNIQA and SanusX.
Click here for more information about the 6 Breakdowns in the Process for Innovation.