This chapter covered the second element of the Pentathlon Framework – generating innovative ideas at the fuzzy front end (FFE). It explained the challenges of the FFE, such as the need for the right teams to work on this difficult phase of innovation; and the difficulties of planning work on breakthrough and radical innovation, which, by definition, is work that has not been conducted before. It also explained that decisions on which ideas are most promising is an art more than a science at this early stage.
Next, the role of creativity is generating ideas was covered, with explanations of some of the most relevant theories. The importance of giving clear direction rather than the typical ‘think outside the box’ approach was stressed. The most effective ways for individuals and teams to be creative, including a number of techniques in addition to brainstorming, were explained.
Managing innovation is fundamentally about generating new knowledge and so explicit and tacit knowledge and their impact were discussed. Managers need to look for effective ways to stimulate the exchange of knowledge in their organizations. Sometimes, existing knowledge can give teams new ideas of how they can solve their challenges. For example, patents summarize how specific problems have been solved previously and TRIZ databases can be a rich source of ideas. Similarly, biomimicry uses nature as a source of ideas.
One of the most effective ways to generate ideas for innovation, be it product, service or business model innovation, is through the generation of deep customer insights. Here, traditional market research has serious limitations and, therefore, companies need to understand and adopt appropriate enhanced approaches. More sophisticated methods for market research such as ethnography and crowdsourcing are particularly useful for capturing the elusive voice of the customer.
This chapter also discussed various approaches to protecting innovative ideas and the value they create. Patents, trademarks, copyright and design rights were all described but other forms of protection, such as the use of process innovation – which is hard for competitors to copy – were suggested. Finally, the main case study for this chapter, on Mölnlycke Health Care, looks at the link between the strategy and idea generation.
Interview with J.S. Oh
Interview with Martin Oxley
Foster an understanding of the different types of creativity in your organization and use this to stimulate a constant flow of ideas.
Encourage staff to recognize the importance of actively collecting ideas from outside sources.
Take active steps to establish and maintain a ‘culture of innovation’ that supports idea generation.
Promote the exchange of knowledge within and between innovation project teams. Recognize and protect knowledge that is vital to the organization.
Employ an appropriate combination of market research techniques to identify your customers’ hidden needs.
Identify suitable ways to protect innovative ideas from competitors.