Innovation in practice

A list of 10 things to consider when building innovation at your company

Jonas Wikström
Oct 5, 2015 · 7 min read

Building innovation in a company isn’t always a walk in the park. Everyone wants to create radical changes but it can be hard to push innovation when everything is controlled by time frames and tight budgets. The problem often lies in that co-workers get stressed and does not have the time to listen to new ideas that pop up during projects. Most of the time we can’t utilize all that knowledge acceleration that happen. We have listed 10 things to consider and some inspiration to get you started with innovation.

1. Define your view of Innovation

Working user-centered means that the market pulls which creates incremental innovation

What type of innovation do we strive for? To work user-centered in the project means that you have a pull effect from the user. This creates a effect of incremental innovation for the user. This means that existing things are getting better and better.

Design, technology or business driven? Means an Innovation push to the market. Gives an Innovative effect that could be radical.

Radical change could happen if you look at design, technology and business separate and try to push one of the forward. In the next step look at them again as whole to secure that the idea is valid. This means that we can push a change to the market. It could be so radical that it makes a difference in the marketspace. The scale of change is granular, and it’s hard to know where we end up on this scale in a first stage.

2. Parallel working streams

let Innovation live in symbiosis with the commercial project stream. If you working user-centered in the commercial project stream you will achieve incremental innovation. It comes down to be able to seize the opportunities that arise from that team. This can be difficult to handle in this workstream when everyone is controlled by time, budget and backlog. Therefore it might be interesting to create a parallel work stream looking over the opportunities that arises, an innovation branch.

Parallel working streams

The team in the innovation branch looks over the possibilities and problems. Working in iteration the team design and prototype to validate the ideas. They can be rejected, archived or approved. If approved they are sent back to the commercial product work streams backlog for prioritization and commercialization. The ideas can also create new projects.

The art of controlling the innovation branch

3. Follow a philosophy

Act like a startup

Decide on a philosophy that you work after in the innovation branch. This can be something like “to act as a start-up”. That is to say that you work after the philosophy to always try to grow the user base and is not guided by history or dependencies of technologies and so on.

4. What do you believe in?

What’s your bet? What will will change for your users in the future

What is happening in the market? What kind of goals and needs do you think your users have in the future. Based on this, make your “bets”
For example, Apegroup believes that our users going to live a “life in motion” even in a greater extent than they do today. To explain that we have set up 4 cornerstones presented in something we call the 4 C;
Continuity, Coherency, Contextual, Connectivity.
Using these cornerstones when designing our digital products, we can prioritize and divide up our efforts to create more understanding from experiments around these parts.

5. Process

The Innovations layer need another kind of process

The Innovation layer need its own form of process to create structure. Set a process that is iterative and manages various exploratory and investigative methods to carry out the rapid experiments. The basic principle is idea, test and learn. Each iteration accelerate knowledge and understanding in the team and you can reject the idea or move on in a higher resolution.

Each design iteration is followed by a validation. We aim to prove hypotheses and gain the insights needed to either reject the idea, or move on to a higher resolution of the prototype. The next step will be to communicate and validate a more refined solution. This to be able to bring a validated idea to the table and move it on to the commercial workstream or even start a new project. have in mind that nothing is launched live in the innovation workstream.

6. Teams

Experience = Insight + Design + Technology.

So keep the team multidisciplinary! The team may consist of different roles depending on the situation, the type of inquiry and investigation to be done Also depending of how the idea will be presented and communicated to a specific audience that also validate the idea.

7. Timeformat

One or two week iteration, The red-marked days of the time format symbolizes two examples of time as may be required for the team to produce the material being communicated to validate the idea.

Put a time format to handle quick, short iterations. Iterations of a week or two weeks is a good time format. It’s a good thing to start from a validation at the end of each iteration and from there go backwards to see what is required to prepare this validation in the best way. Who is the audience? What’s the resolution of the material we are communicating? What method are we using? What is needed to give the idea a fair chance to reach the success criteria that are set? By that we can start to get an understanding if we need one week or a two week iteration.

8. Choose the right tools

Reviewing the tools that give you the effect you want to achieve. Choose tools that help you work creatively and with collaborative problem solving, and facilitates prototyping from low resolution to high resolution. Each tool has different effects depending on how the idea should be communicated.
From pen and paper to prototyping tools such as Principle, InVision, Framer JS, etc. Of interest is also the tools that helps to simulate the data or collect data / information from various API’s such as Flowthings.

9. Understand the user activities in a context

In the advent of wearables, services must really start to adapt to the context. Time, place in relationship to man, machine or system is crucial. In that it becomes important to understand the user activities, behaviors and needs in different situations and contexts. When we fully understand these parameters, we can begin to see how the digital touchpoint can support the user's activities and needs and enhance the user experience. In the same context also test various digital touch points such as mobile phone, watches, glasses etc. to answer the question which digital touchpoint solves the user’s needs and goals in the best way?

10. Success Criteria

Map criteria for each iteration to find out if success has been met or not. The criteria vary depending on the resolution of the prototype and the type of study being done. Like solution or problem interviews, experience prototyping, narrative prototyping etc. The challenge is in early stages of an idea that it is usually not quantitative data that can be picked out of a validation, but rather qualitative data based on a small test group in the form of interviews and the like. Success criteria could be similar to 4 of 5 is positive, Meet the design principles etc. Setting success criteria ahead is very difficult, but after a number of iterations, everything will start to fall into place!

Hopefully you have found at least one new thing or one new insight with this article, the whole idea is to get going and start up an innovation workstream. So try it out and utilize all knowledge that lies in the commercial project workstream and get an more innovative organisation.

Apegroup — Behind the Screens

Thoughts, learnings and opinions from a digital product studio in Sweden who deliver world-class design, technology and communication.

Jonas Wikström

Written by

COO at apegroup

Apegroup — Behind the Screens

Thoughts, learnings and opinions from a digital product studio in Sweden who deliver world-class design, technology and communication.

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