Why rockets beat funnels for innovation: bgym book 5

This is the 5th post on the new bgym book, done with my co-author, David Nichols who heads up our invention practice.

Innovation can be one of the best sources of profitable growth for a Leader Brand, but success rates are dismal and one of the main culprits is the Innovation Funnel. The very process put in place to make innovation more of a dead cert is making it more of a dead duck.

Innovation Funnels don’t work
We have worked across many companies and brands and, in our experience, Innovation funnels encourage bureaucracy, incremental thinking and conservatism; stymieing the very thing they were created to promote.  They slow the process of innovation down and make it cost a lot of money. They seem to be very good at generating ‘dwarf’ brand extensions that eat up resource and add no value for consumers.

Rocketing – A new innovation paradigm
We suggest a new paradigm for innovation processes.  Turn your funnel into a rocket.

Rockets are very simple, but very powerful. They turn potent fuel into vast amounts of energy, which is directed and built up into thrust so strong it lifts the whole rocket up. As an analogy for innovation, it works extremely well. Rather than a funnel shape that starts empty, attracts random inputs and attempts to squeeze out a few drops of innovation at the end, we have a rocket with a clear destination, creating ideas as it goes and focused on producing maximum impact from the resources put in.

Innovation Rocket

The key principles are:

1.    Clear Destination: Be clear on where you are going, what your goal is.  Writing a tight brief is the first and crucial step in successful innovation.  Preferably, do it in one sentence.

2.    Get Potent Insight Fuel: Don’t just rely on focus groups with core consumers, go wide and search far; talk to different people and use different techniques.  We call this 360° Insight and its sole purpose is to fuel new connections and new thinking.

3.    Do Multiple Ideas Sessions: A simple but immensely powerful technique is to do more than one ideas session. It increases not only the quantity but also the quality of ideas as you are more free to go ‘out of the box’.  In each, ignite the insight fuel you have gathered into fresh ideas.

4.    Set Drop-deadlines: Think of Steve Jobs at MacWorld Expo announcing the Apple’s next launch.  He sets a date in public and you can be sure that it simply does not change – and it is one of the key tools Apple use to galvanise such regular and excellent innovation.

In summary, the next time you set off to start a new innovation project, think about the process you are following – is it a just a chase form evaluation to validation with little time for inspiration and ideas?  Make a stand and turn your funnel into a Rocket. Use a clear vision and potent insight fuel to generate lots of high quality ideas, then quickly turn the best ones into winning mixes.  It will take less time, cost less and be more successful.  You are much more likely to gain or retain brand leadership.