It seems to be that the larger the organisation, the longer it takes for anything to get done. A large corporate will treat a new product development (NPD) initiative as a serious project. Usually, this means applying all the business management theories and science. Along with using the correct project management tools. However, a large majority of new products fail. Particularly those in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. Instead of sticking to larger corporate ways of working, it could be better to think differently. Large corporates can benefit from copying some of the methods used by start up software companies. But why? Well, these start up businesses have limited resources. Usually, limited funds and are against deadlines. For these companies to be successful, they need to minimise risk. If money or time runs out, the company dies. By thinking like a start up, large corporates can be more efficient. They can get new products to market quicker, and cheaper. Here are 12 alternative ways of thinking that large corporates could follow to improve their innovation efforts.

1- Your First Idea is Unlikely to be the Best Idea

Start ups who embrace innovation will think of dozens, or hundreds of ideas. From all of these, only a handful, or sometimes only 1, makes the cut. On the other hand, large corporates can often get hung up one one idea. Especially if the idea comes from a director, or someone with high authority in the business. The first idea(s) are just a hypothesis. There to be tested, broken, tested again, until one is validated. Don’t force an idea to work just because it came from yourself, or your boss. Ditch the ideas that you break, and move ahead with the ideas that are validated.

2- Always Begin With a Problem

Innovation doesn’t start with ideas. This is a huge misconception we’ve spoken about before on the blog. Ideas are a large part of innovation. However, these ideas come as a response to solving a business problem. Always start with problems. Put these at the core of your innovation projects. When problems have been discovered, you can then think of ideas and solutions to provide an innovative solution.

3- Develop a Value Proposition

By developing a value proposition for your proposed ideas, you will be able to answer the following;
  • Who needs this?
  • Why do they need it?
  • What does it do?
  • Where & when will people use it?
  • How much do our customers need it?
  • What will our customers be willing to pay?
If you need help with developing a value proposition, we have you covered.

4- Be Open to Change

Small start up’s are always open to new ways of work, and trying new things. As a result of being new, no existing, long-last habits have been formed. Furthermore, a start up can’t afford to be rigid in their approach to working. If something doesn’t work, they need to know why – quickly. Small start up’s have the luxury of being able to adapt to changes quickly. As quite often, if they don’t adapt, they will not last. As a large corporate, you should aim to break away from rigid working patterns. Instead, be open to change and trying new things that will probably help your business.

5- Leave Your Ego at the Door

Somewhat of a follow on to point 2 in this list. Everyone has an idea. Perhaps someone with a bigger wage and a lot more authority than you. These are the kind of managers that need to take note of this point. Clinging onto a half-cooked idea to save pride and ego, can massively impact a business in the worst way. Instead, senior executives and managers need to think like a start-up entrepreneur. If your idea is no good, but someone else poses a great idea, it should be a no-brainer. Learn to think about what’s best for your business, and not your ego.

6- Build and Show

This comes from innovative working styles, such as design sprints. Quickly build a wirerame, a model or a story board and show it to real customers who have faced the problem you’re tackling. Do this through focus groups, one-on-one interviews, or by emailing them. Gather real world, real customer feedback from this early concept. Find out what they like, but more importantly, what they don’t. You’ll be able to find out, early on, if an idea is viable from this inexpensive task.

7- Trust Your Team

Assign a design sprint team of up to 7 people to tackling a problem. Do everything you can to make their job easy. Remove anything that might halt their progress. Assist them where needed. Give them the space and time to do their thing. Forget the archaic micro-management tactics of screen watching and asking what they’ve found every few hours. Empower them to do a good job – and they will.

8- Your Ideas Must Solve Customer Problems

Put your customer and their problems at the start of any innovation project. Whatever solution you devise should be there to solve their problem, in the easiest way possible. It might be nice to add additional features, or design choices. But before spending the time of designing and developing these extras, consider how it will impact the customer. Does it help solving their problem. Does it enhance their experience? If not – ditch them.

9- Move Ahead With Your Most Valuable Proposition

After rigorous testing and validating an idea – move into full design and development. A lot of start up software companies will be very open with what they’re creating. Providing free access, beta testing, demo’s and regular updates of what they’re building. Try and follow suit. Show it off to your customers, get their feedback as you progress, so that you can implement changes on the fly.

10- Listen to Feedback & Adapt

A continuation of point 9. Gather customer insights and feedback data – but don’t waste it! Make use of it. Apply changes to your product based on what your customers are telling you.

11- Don’t Worry About Being Perfect

Getting a product finished in a workable state, is better than holding off until perfection. In reality, can anyone create a perfect product? We don’t think so. Most software companies will release their products 90% completed. The remaining 10% will be added through patches, or implemented based on customer feedback. Don’t go the opposite way with this and rush a product out however. If internal testing is showing obvious bugs, or the product isn’t working as intended – don’t ship it. Use a common sense approach.

12- Never Think your Product is “Complete”

This goes hand in hand with the above point. But just when a project is considered “done” and made available to your customers – it isn’t really done. Keep gathering customer insights. Keep getting their feedback. Keep updating and improving your product or service. Never fail to exceed your customer expectations.

Wrapping It Up

There we have it. 12 simple tactics that any large corporate can employ, to reap the same benefits that small software start ups do. It might not be practical to implement all 12 at once. That’s ok. Instead, see which points resonate most with you and your business. Which ones can be implemented easiest. Which ones do you think will have the biggest impact? Start with these points initially, and keep changing your work flows until you’re able to solve all your problems.

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