Developing a pipeline of real, relevant and viable product, service or business model concepts is a business challenge that most B2B companies face every year. Here are some steps to ensure that your important efforts successfully produce the greatest value.

Discovering insights

The first step in the innovation process is gathering feedback from end-users and stakeholders, as well as data on the latest trends and marketplace learning to inform the process. All of these insights are critical to generating potential innovation solutions in the next step.

Second, three ways that these insights can be gathered include reaching out for interviews with customers or suppliers, requesting internal suggestions from employees or holding interactive workshops with the participation of cross-functional team members. If the above steps in the innovation process are done properly, companies should gain a multitude of potentially feasible ideas worthy of consideration. 

But then what? Which of these concepts are worthy of pursuing? How does one prioritize the myriad of concepts?

Bringing it all together

For years, we’ve been using our Nexus methodology to filter and prioritize ideas into actionable concepts that fit in line with our clients’ overall innovation strategy. This approach is simple and effective and has always been successful in identifying the innovation ideas that are most viable.

Here’s the secret sauce to filtering your best ideas:

  • Form a Nexus team: Our methodology begins with forming a Nexus team—a small, cross-functional group of four individuals made up of both agency and client innovation leads. Having both client and agency representatives on the team keep a check and balance system in place as the team moves through the evaluation process. The client team may include the innovation manager and a representative from either R&D or a senior executive.
  • Set the goals and parameters: This team works together to first establish and then monitor that the overarching innovation goals are being met as the project progresses, and that the ideas generated are within the parameters that were set and agreed upon.
  • Refine the criteria for prioritizing ideas: The ideas generated have to be prioritized in terms of viability, risk and ROI impact. We have developed a Risk/Reward Evaluator that uses 6 different criteria to help the team evaluate ideas each on a scale of 1 to 5.

The team reviews and adjusts the risk criteria – depending on specific parameters, such as:

  • Market adoption: How likely is the market willing to adopt the innovation?
  • Technical development: What is the level of technical skill development required to create the innovation?
  • Confidence factor: How confident is the organization that the concept can be created?

Next, the team reviews and adjusts the reward criteria as needed to fulfill the following:

  • Company fit:Does the innovation fit in line with the overarching company and innovation strategies?
  • Stakeholder fit: Does the innovation fit a target user’s need? 
  • Revenue potential: What is the revenue potential of the innovation?
  • PowerDot the Concepts: Following the ideation of innovation concepts, each participant in the workshop or broader team receives a cluster of PowerDots that they use to cast their votes for the best innovations.  Using the pre-determined criteria created by the Nexus Team, each person scrutinizes each concept and votes on the ideas that they feel best meets the criteria. This gives everyone a voice and a chance to review and consider each concept, while also providing the Nexus team some feedback they can use to focus on, and specific innovation concepts to re-evaluate going forward
  • Evaluate the Ideas: The Nexus Team then meets, and using the refined Evaluator, steps each concept through the evaluation process. The team also reviews and evaluates  concepts that may not be fully developed to determine the potential of these ideas.  Some of the innovation concepts might need feedback from the company’s  technical staff or corporate attorney in order to accurately evaluate certain concepts.
  • Map the concepts: Once all of the ideas have been put through the Evaluator, the ideas should be mapped on to a four quadrant Cartesian coordinate system graph with the X-axis representing Reward (low to high), and the Y-axis representing Risk (low to high) to help facilitate a structured way to determine the concepts that are most viable scoring the anticipated business value against the level of risk that would be required to implement. The more viable concepts tend to be in the top two quadrants and less viable innovations in the lower two quadrants.

This process provides a very thorough, effective and consistent way to evaluate innovation concepts and simplifies the approach so that the next ideas your team has can move forward more quickly into prototyping and validation.

Conclusion

It is important not to innovate in a vacuum, but instead to follow a proven innovation process that combines deep insights, trend analysis, business intelligence, expert perspective, business strategy and design thinking to deliver actionable innovation solutions.

At Elevation Marketing, we draw from our extensive toolbox of adaptive techniques and methodologies to best address your specific challenge, corporate culture, budget, timing and desired result. It’s a vigorous approach: always questioning, re-assessing, and driving fresh thinking. Talk with us about your challenges, and we will be happy to share our wealth of actionable innovation experience with you and your team.

Relevant Articles:

Beyond the R&D team: 4 Open Innovation Processes that Fuel Fresh, Dynamic Results in B2B

4 Myths About Innovation in Business

6 Steps for B2B Companies to Innovate Better


About the Author:

John Edelmann – Executive Director of Innovation

John is the Executive Director of Innovation and Client Development at Elevation Marketing. His industry expertise is deep and varied. Before joining Elevation, John operated his own strategic marketing agency for 14 years which focused on innovating and renovating new brands, products, and services.