How do you ensure your Innovation is a Smart Investment?

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

by | 10 Aug, 2020 | Untapped Thinking

We are often asked by our clients ‘how do you measure the return on investment of your innovation approaches?’

As no two projects are the same, a simple, reapplicable ROI measure is difficult to find.

What you can assess however, are innovation opportunities and how they affect the bottom line. 

  • These opportunities can be explored by understanding: How many ‘assets’ are teams sitting on that they never use? E.g. user insights developed for one project but possibly also helpful for another? Technology or prototypes filed away in the ‘cupboard’ because they weren’t quite right for that project objective or that user’s needs? Trend reports that were interesting at the time, but never felt actionable or relatable to the business?
  • How often are concept or product tests conducted and none of the ideas meet the success criteria? Requiring a circle back and a repeat test? And maybe only 1 idea ultimately ‘scrapes through’?
  • How many features of the new or existing products go unnoticed or unappreciated? How many of these features could be stripped out or cost-saved without the user batting an eye?

At Untapped, we have 3 innovation processes

that ‘untap’ each of these opportunities.

We start every project by mining already existing business assets – user insights, technical possibilities and future trends. Every client team we work with has an abundance of tacit knowledge that can be unlocked by asking the right questions, of the right people. We spend time peering under the hood of historical projects and capabilities to identify opportunity ‘themes’ and related knowledge gaps. From a financial perspective, this means that for many projects, we have been able to identify new ideas without commissioning any new research, or when additional research is required, every £ spent guarantees fresh perspective and new insight, thereby becoming an impactful new asset for the future.

Prior to developing any idea or concept, we work with client teams to identify their ‘hero’ (hint: it’s not their brand or product – it’s their end user!), how their brand or product can become a ‘mentor’ to empower the hero, and the benefit or ‘happy ever after’ they envision once the product has been used. This process draws out a number of different ways to design the user experience and how to service these needs. As a result, we generally end up with 4-5 ‘stories’ that inspire at least 4-5 new concepts and products. From a financial perspective, ‘story-led’ concept and product development, consistently meets or exceeds testing criteria first time round, without repeat testing and associated rework costs.

The process of developing an MVP is incredibly powerful to ensure cost-effective ‘existing’ or ‘new’ product design features that generate a good return on investment. By identifying the user needs and resulting emotional and functional ‘jobs’ that the product must do, we can assign product features for each job. Product features that do not do a job or deliver on a specific user need, can be deprioritised or removed from the design, making the product more cost effective and valuable. For existing products in market, it’s useful to conduct a ‘jobs audit’ to ensure that every feature truly delivers on the jobs to be done. For new products, this approach ensures that a robust financial model is designed right from the start.

In closing, here are some helpful questions to assess the return on investment in your innovation program:

  1. What are your existing assets? Can you peer under the hood of historical projects and capabilities to connect your user insights, technical possibilities and future trends to find new ideas for your business?
  2. What are the stories waiting to be told? Before you jump into expensive concept and product testing, does your new idea have an underpinning, differentiated story with a clear hero, mentor and happy ever after? 
  3. What is your MVP? Are you clear on the user needs and jobs that must be done? Does every feature in your product address a need or job? Can you cost save or deprioritise features that have no job in the experience?

We would love to connect with you to share and discuss these approaches in more detail, please contact us at:

[email protected]

Untapping Human Needs, Technical Possibilities & Future Trends. 

Transformative Ideas, Faster.

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