ideation

Ideation

Now you can have a big idea

Because success comes from knowing, not guessing

The goal the ideation process isn’t lots of ideas

Ideation is all about coming up with the big idea. The key challenge, however, is knowing what constitutes a big idea. When looking at ideation through a jobs-to-be-done lens, we see that a big idea is one that helps a large number of customers (job executors) get a job done significantly better at a price they are willing to pay. The goal of ideation, then, should not be lots of ideas. Instead, the goal should be to construct the single, best solution to satisfy the unmet customer needs of the target customers and segments, enabling them to get the job done faster, more conveniently, and more effectively than ever before.

Myths that mislead the ideation process

There is one belief that permeates academic literature and has influenced nearly all gated product development processes: it is the notion that innovation begins with an idea. This is the myth that misleads. An idea is the output of the innovation process, not the starting point. Making ideation and idea management the starting point of the innovation process, although common, turns innovation into a guessing game. It is the most inefficient approach to innovation and the root cause of low innovation success rates. Why? Because it is nearly impossible to have a big idea before knowing what customer, job-to-be-done, segment, unmet needs, and price the idea has to address. They are the inputs needed to execute successful ideation techniques. The chances that any random idea will satisfactorily address all these prerequisites are miniscule.

Why all the ideas?

Many companies equate innovation management with idea management. They have ideation sessions that result in lots of ideas that must be catalogued, filtered, assessed, and acted upon. The thinking goes something like this: “The more ideas we have, the greater our chances are that one of them will be a big idea. Our goal, then, is to fail fast; that is, to filter out all the bad ideas as quickly as possible so the big ideas will surface.”

Companies that use the fail-fast model are trying to figure out which of the hundreds of ideas they have generated significantly address their customers’ unmet needs in attractive markets. But in nearly all companies, managers don’t even agree on what a customer need is, let alone all the unmet needs in the markets the ideas are addressing. So how can they effectively determine which ideas to pursue? They can’t. And this is the problem.

As a result, companies pursue, develop, and refine ideas they find intuitively appealing, and along the way they try to figure out if those ideas address unmet needs in attractive markets. In the end, they find that most ideas do not. These ideation techniques waste time, money, and resources.

You don’t brainstorm innovations; you construct them

Our ideation process works because it is built around knowing all the customers’ needs, and which are unmet, in advance of the ideation process. We have discovered that customers consider between 50 and 150 metrics when assessing how well a product or service enables them to successfully execute any job. These metrics (or desired outcomes) are the customer’s needs and the power behind our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI).

Prior to ideation, we use quantitative research methods to capture and prioritize all the customers’ needs. Those same methods also point out what customer, job-to-be-done, segment, and price the idea has to address. No other process makes this possible. With the right information in hand, we can construct a big idea, because success comes from knowing, not guessing. Learn more about our innovation consulting services.

Published Articles

Turn Customer Input into Innovation

In this timeless 2002 Harvard Business Review article, Tony Ulwick first introduces the concept of Outcome-Driven Innovation and the opportunity algorithm to HBR readers. He explains how Cordis Corporation (now a division of Johnson & Johnson) used ODI to conduct ideation in a way that increased its angioplasty balloon market share from 1 percent to 20 percent. Learn More

The Customer-Centered Innovation Map

In this groundbreaking 2008 Harvard Business Review article, Tony Ulwick and Lance Bettencourt reveal an important discovery they made while turning the jobs-to-be-done innovation theory into practice: job mapping. A job map breaks down the job the customer wants to get done into specific process steps, enabling us to create an effective approach to ideation. Learn More

Giving Customer a Fair Hearing

In this provocative article in MIT Sloan Management Review, Tony Ulwick reveals how a customer need must be defined within the jobs-to-be-done framework to become a useful input into your innovation process. This article introduces timeless standards for understanding the types of customer needs that exist and how we use them to conduct an ideation session that results in a big idea customers will love. Download the article

White Papers

Ideas-First or Needs-First: What Would Edison Say?

In just over 30 years, Thomas Edison, one of the world’s greatest innovators, pioneered six industries that today have a cumulative market value of more than $1 trillion. How did he come up with these big ideas? Learn the answer, and how outcome-driven thinking can help your company grow, from Sarah Miller Caldicott. Download the Edison white paper

Silence the Voice of the Customer

This white paper by Strategyn founder Tony Ulwick highlights the business advantages of using our ODI methods to capture and prioritize customer needs. It explains why traditional voice-of-the-customer (VOC) practices continue to fail and makes a solid case for retiring VOC as a method for understanding customer needs. Download the white paper

What is Outcome-Driven Innovation?

Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) is the most effective innovation process in existence today. This white paper by Strategyn founder and ODI inventor Tony Ulwick explains why innovation has historically been an ineffective process, the discoveries he made that led to ODI, and how it enables us to conduct ideation that results in a big idea and accelerated growth.
Download the white paper

A New Perspective on Strategy

The goal of business strategy formulation is to create a unique and valued competitive position. This white paper by Strategyn founder Tony Ulwick offers a different perspective on strategy, explaining why customer needs (not company activities) are the basic unit of competitive analysis. Ulwick also introduces innovation strategies we use to drive company growth and beat the competition. Download the white paper

Books

What Customers Want

What Customers Want, the best seller by innovation thought leader Tony Ulwick, explains what Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) is and why it works. Ulwick, who pioneered jobs-to-be-done thinking and invented ODI, details how ODI transforms jobs-to-be-done theory into a practical method for ideation that drives big ideas and company growth. Learn More

Case Studies

Choose from a dozen case studies of companies such as Microsoft, Ingersoll Rand, Bosch, and others, and learn how we use our ODI methodology to generate big ideas that help companies grow. Learn More