3-Step Innovation ‘Success Torture Test’

If you’ve learned the hard way that assumptions kill good ideas, this torture test is for you. Because the theory is one thing, but being able to root out nasty little assumptions in ideas and knowing what to do about them is an innovator’s secret weapon; transforming good ideas into break-through concepts. 

Step one: Pull the idea apart 

Breaking it down to it’s component parts will make you less emotional and therefore able to see more clearly.

Identify every element: format, vehicle, packaging, claims, flavours, fragrances, options, names, descriptors, sizes, quantities, amounts, pricing structure, etc etc…                           

Step two: Turn the idea components inside out

Here are some clues as to whether there are assumptions lurking inside your idea. 

1. Internal myths

Is it based on one of those things colleagues tout around the business but nobody really knows where it came from? E.g.

  • “X product format is going out of fashion with our consumers”
  • “Our consumer wont buy our product if it’s not organic”
  • “Consumers want a one-stop-shop solution for this”

2. Outdated knowledge

Is it based on thinking that has been knocking around for more than 2-3 years? E.g.

  • “We can’t do widgets we tested that in X year and it failed on brand relevance”
  • “Consumers prioritise naturalness over convenience these days, we’ve known this for years”
  • “Small is out, large is in” / “Large is out small is in”
  • “We don’t think our consumers even know what sweet potato is!” 

3. Transposed insights

Beware of sound insights, but from other projects and brands – it might be different this time. E.g.

  • “Well we tested Salted Caramel on Project X – it bombed”
  • “We’re going to sell it in this bundle – as that’s what Acme Ltd are doing”
  • “Building on the success of it this in X other market/other target consumer base we’re fairly confident that…”

4. Accidental bias

Otherwise known as “it’s what you think/want/like/feel is right”. Don’t feel bad it happens to the best of us. Human nature! But alarms bells should ring if you find yourself thinking along these lines:

  • “What else could it possibly be!?”
  • “It just is that, just because”
  • “You just can’t…!”
  • “I don’t know why we did that like that, we just sort of did.”
  • “The designer drew it like that – I don’t think we thought to question it!”

Your ultimate sense check is this:

“If there isn’t a strong rationale for your guiding insight or principle, that is also relevant to this particular project, it’s probably an assumption”

Step three: Dispose of the remains

You’ve identified the assumptions, now you need to work out how to test them and develop alternatives that can work (if required). Now you need to be:

  • brutal in double-checking for assumptions
  • explosive in thinking of potential options
  • brilliant in creating alternatives
  • razor sharp in making recommendations

Getting consumers involved in the process is imperative to get you to a really robust concept. Note that focus groups wont work for this – you need creative thinking and empowered respondents which is something that focus groups just can’t deliver.

So how have the concepts you are working on fared in our 3-step torture test? Do you have a breakthrough innovation in the making, or is it just a sound idea that still has somewhat of a journey to go on?

Published 25th November 2015 by Shelly Greenway @ the Strategy Distillery