What Is An Innovation Sprint And Why You Might Need One?

Innovation Sprints are a really hot topic right now and for good reason. Some of the biggest companies in the world are using them to build the products we know and love. If you don’t know what an Innovation Sprint is, it’s essentially a framework that allows you to decide on a problem, generate solutions and prototype and then test ideas with real consumers, in between 3 and 5 days. Created by Google, the framework has been a game changer for people working in the world of digital products, but now it is being widely adopted by FMCG companies who have to act and operate with far more agility than ever before. Companies need to move faster to get viable ideas into the market ahead of the competition. Instead of taking years to develop, test, and launch a new product, companies now have months. Innovation Sprints effectively help you to cut some of the processes out of the process. They give you answers! They help to unpack and test assumptions and early ideas (we call them Idealings) at breakneck speed (compared to the norm).

What Barriers Can An Innovation Sprint Knock Over?

1. Good ideas are not prematurely killed Often with ideation, so much time is spent conversing and exploring the barriers in an initial concept that the idea is never even given a chance to be explored. Sprints remove these hurdles and enable quick discovery of opportunities without the need for endless deliberation. You have to try ideas quickly and be able to fail fast to find the ideas that are most viable and commercially sound. 2. No time or budget for rigour, but still want to keep the consumer at the heart With new, faster timelines for product innovation, many companies don’t have as much time for the rigour of conventional market research, but they still want to find a way to keep the consumer at the heart of everything they do. Innovation Sprints give you enough consumer insight to build a case around what your consumer wants and why. Answers are usually qualitative in nature, best for assessing desirability and where all the holes and gaps are in an idea. It’s an extremely early form of concept validation if you like. What they don’t give you is a fully developed proposition and the detailed execution of the idea – for example, the name, product descriptor, claims, product and pack format, size, usability etc. The depth of consumer insight from an Innovation Sprint is unlikely to give decision makers all the insights they need, but it ensures you are getting buy-in from the right stakeholders early in the process. 3. Stakeholder team is not galvanised and/ or aligned The Innovation Sprint format gives a way to focus the attention on the team on a very specific problem. The exercises are all designed to reduce politics, increase collaboration across functions and put focus on answers, and not just assets. The team is empowered to make decisions and reject ideas that weren’t right for the project – without pushback. This keeps the whole process moving forward quickly. Also, the specific expertise of team members is fully flexed throughout the Sprint. By enlisting the help of the right people at the right time, it helps to drive both speed and efficiency. An Innovation Sprint workshop is completely scalable in terms of how many Sprint Strategists are used, how many of your team are involved in the process, the number of ideas worked on, external resources brought in, location, etc. We recommend up to 8 people who are all equipped and empowered to make decisions there and then. In summary, Innovation Sprints are a powerful and agile tool for ideation that can deliver; •  A good balance of speed and depth of information •  The ability to iterate more quickly •  Flexibility in how the team gets to answers •  Empowerment to make decisions and feel good about the decisions being made There is no one-size fits all for innovation sprints. We have learned that there are times when another strategic approach is best for our clients. We’ve also seen how they can help teams make critical strategic decisions, with confidence, very quickly.
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Shelly Greenway

Front-end Innovation Strategist at The Strategy Distillery, a brand innovation consultancy that exists to increase NPD success rates.

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1 Comment

  1. Fred on August 29, 2020 at 4:42 am

    “so much time is spent conversing and exploring the barriers in an initial concept that the idea is never even given a chance to be explored.” This is so true and I guess this is also connected with a lack of company culture, isn’t it? If you, however, create an inspiring and motivational workplace, where colleagues and CEOs welcome new ideas with open arms, this shouldn’t be about to happen.

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