A long way down the innovation funnel, time has passed and many gates traversed. Ideas are discarded because they sit outside of the core capabilities of the firm. They are parked for some future time when the markets would be ready to receive such a radical idea. This filtration process eventually leaves the business with a few good ideas that have commercial possibility.
The business has reached a point of needing to turn their ideas into tangible good or service.
Galvanizing the internal focus of the organisation to make something physical is a challenge in itself. Generating ideas is one thing but a refinement process is needed to thin this out into a manageable portfolio of potential innovation projects. The most common approaches are as follows:
Proof of concept
The near finished prototype that demonstrates the principles and often forgoes the aesthetic polish of finished project. It will probably be very close to the finished product in terms of the technology that is integrated into it. Where possible it will have used the same manufacturing processes as would the finished product would.
The product that utilises a manufacturing/fabrication that may not be indicative of the finished product. But through sheer speed and reduced costs enables the engineers to produce rapidly improving space models. This often sits alongside virtual conceptualization experiments and preference testing – having half a dozen variants that explores form and function to see which one is favoured by a test group. Thins this out to a smaller well received group and repeat the process with ever more exacting variables – sooner or later you will hit the sweet spot and along the way seen the product evolve in form, function and capability.
Advanced development teams
The product is explored by thought leaders and specialists in their respective fields. Often there can be a great deal of theoretical concept work ahead of anything being actually fabricated or manufactured.
In this environment the host innovation team look outside of the boundaries of their enterprise. They seek like-minded co-creaters, who may have already invested a significant amount of human capital in researching the specialist area. communities of practice seek to exploit opportunities as a joint venture. This is one of the strongest and risky methods of turning ideas into working prototypes. You expose your area of interest to outside parties (the risk) in the belief that the separate levels of specialism will give the extended enterprise a competitive advantage over other teams. This will be focussed upon in a separate section wherein i will explore the relationship of open innovation and social networks.