The Power of Connection: How it can Improve Innovation

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

Much like a light bulb needs a connection between the power source, conducting wires, switch and bulb for it to shine, R&D teams require the skills, structure, vision and focus to create bright ideas that result in breakthrough products.

Our White Paper, Science that Listens, explains how you can take a more connected approach to your product innovation, and the four disconnects that often hold R&D teams back.

Download the white paper here

Innovation can only succeed when connections are made.

Skills-based disconnect: The most effective R&D teams bring together a wide variety of skills, knowledge and experience. Challenges come from not having people with the right experience or not connecting the team in the right way to bridge any skills gaps. We often see people who have a lot of skills and experience operating in isolation, and this siloed approach can make it hard to land the insights and apply them effectively to the innovation process.

However, by connecting the right set of skills, consumer-centric stories can be successfully woven into the innovation narrative from the earliest phases of ideation, right through to activation and launch into market. When this happens, a product makes more sense to the customer, and as a result they feel more connected to it.

We saw this in action when working with a client on a homecare product. We used our Story approach to take the R&D team on a journey from customer pain points, right through to minimum viable products (MVPs).  By helping the team turn their insights and inspiration into brilliant, human-centred ideas, we were able to support our client in bringing an award-winning product to market.

Structural disconnect: Typically, organisations aren’t structured to facilitate a close relationship between R&D and marketeers. This lack of communication between the two, means there isn’t the connection needed to power up innovation and land a new product with consumers first time. We see huge benefits on projects when teams come together to innovate.

We were asked by a global consumer healthcare company to bring together their R&D team and marketing stakeholders to develop ideas and innovation platforms to build consumer loyalty and regain lost customers. Working collaboratively, we defined a research plan, identified global trends and cultural insights, developed destinations based on emotional and functional needs, co-created an Ideal Product model, developed and optimised 13 product ideas and created an innovation and business portfolio strategy. This joined-up approach resulted in strong pipelines across consumer targets and a positive Return on Investment (RoI).

Future disconnect: What consumers tell researchers about their needs, desires and experiences are often rooted in the present, however innovators are designing for the future and need to be one step ahead. We find that many teams budget for consumer research and/ or insight on current trends, but don’t invest in exploring and connecting future insight and technical possibility.

We worked with a global FMCG client to define future innovation opportunities. Through our futures network, we assembled a team of ‘global gurus’ including futurists and semioticians, and we were able to connect cross-category behaviours and trends with consumer insight and technical possibilities, to define tangible opportunities and idea spaces.

“Untapped Innovation’s thought leader panel and futures research gave us transformative, rich insight into the future of our consumers and category, which was distilled into clear opportunities for us to action.”

R&D Innovation Strategy Leader, Global FMCG

Emotional disconnect: Innovators are often driven by a passion for technological innovation; this passion may sometimes lead them, through eagerness to turn the idea into a market-ready product, to focus heavily on the technology and the possibilities of the product and become disconnected from user insights and needs.  For example, technologists can hero the product, not the user. On the other side, innovators can focus on their own needs rather than the needs of the consumer.

Recently, we worked with a global household brand to manage an emotional disconnect. The R&D team had an invention they were excited about, but they were struggling to develop an appealing concept. We went back to consumers to discover what they were looking for – and this enabled the team to refocus on needs in the market, rather than getting distracted by ‘reasons to believe’ that lacked meaning for consumers.

Find out more about science that listens and how it’s helping R&D teams to break through biases, bridge skills gaps, stop siloed working, and improve connections between consumers, technology and future insights:

Talk to our team about how we can help get you better connected today:

Download the white paper here

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Written by Sally Kemkers