Dan Coughlin

Article Summary:

The absolute best method to develop successful innovative ideas.

Developing Successful Innovative Ideas

Innovation is the process of identifying, evaluating and implementing opportunities to add value to customers. Value is anything that increases the chances that the customer will achieve better results in whatever it is they want to achieve.

The absolute best method for generating successful innovations is to be with the customer. Walk in their shoes. Ask them for suggestions. Don't use a survey, actually talk with customers while they are customers. Tom Kelley wrote a brilliant book, The Art Of Innovation, on how IDEO uses this approach to innovation. Keep in mind the following six steps:

1. Identify a specific customer experience
Start by knowing what you want feedback on. Make sure this is clear to all members of your search team.

2. Send out search teams
Spend time with the people who purchase and use your product or service. Ask a few open-ended questions and see where the conversation goes. Ask follow-up questions that dig deeper into what the customer wants. Get to as many customers as you possibly can. If you truly get customers to feel they make a difference in finding better solutions, they will open up and share their ideas.

3. Relay all valuable information
After the search is over, provide each member of the search team the opportunity to speak to the rest of the group and share every tidbit of information they gathered. After each speaker, the other members share the ideas that came to them while they listened.

4. Look for common themes
After every one has spoken, have the group analyze all of the input and gather it under various themes. Try to capture it all under four or five themes.

5. Develop each theme
Divide the large group into "Theme Teams." The responsibility of each Theme Team is to discuss and develop new ideas for improving their particular area of the product or service.

6. Regroup and move forward
Gather all of the Theme Teams together and have them explain their ideas for improving the product or service. Then have the other members of the group provide feedback until all ideas on a particular theme have been exhausted. Once all of the themes have been thoroughly discussed, each member votes on the ideas they want included in the final revision. After the voting is finished, the final tallies indicate which opportunities for improvement the group will include in the prototype they test market.

In this process, actual customers' perspectives drive all areas for improvement. Go be with your customers before you develop any new products or services.

As a consultant and professional speaker, Dan Coughlin works with executives and entrepreneurs to accelerate their critical business outcomes. His clients include McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Citigroup, St. Louis Cardinals, SBC Communications, Auxeris Therapeutics, Fru-Con, McCarthy Construction and more than 70 other organizations. He specializes in leadership, management, teamwork, innovation, branding and strategy. He has more than 100 free articles on his website, www.thecoughlin company.com.

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