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The Right Focus for Winning Innovation

Many factors will impact the success of failure of an innovation project, however, one of the most important drivers of success is to ensure that a project has “a clear creative focus” to guide the overall process and to help inspire the development of winning ideas and concepts. This article provides direction in defining winning Innovation Objectives and Innovation Pillars.

Over the past 12 years, Ideas First® has run over 250 innovation projects with large consumer goods companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Reckitt Benckiser and PepsiCo. Most of our projects help regional and global innovation teams to generate new product ideas or new product claims that can be used to drive growth over a period of 1-5 years. Many factors will impact the success of failure of an innovation project (see our article on Top Tips for Winning Ideas), however, one of the most important drivers of success is to ensure that a project has “a clear creative focus” to guide the overall process and to help inspire the development of winning ideas and concepts. To define the creative focus, we encourage teams to have a tight and clearly defined “Innovation Objective” together with up to four “Innovation Pillars”. 

Innovation Objectives and Innovation Pillars
Innovation Objectives and Innovation Pillars should be used to guide the overall process. Experience has shown that the “more focused the objectives and pillars, the deeper and stronger the final insights and ideas generated by a project”. They should be written in a way that will: 

  • provide participants in the process with clear direction, focus and creative inspiration for new insights, ideas, claims and concepts. 
  • provide focus and direction for gathering and refining deeper and stronger consumer insights relevant to the overall project objectives
  • provide direction to help different teams to explore and generate ideas in different opportunity areas.

·       help to encourage the development of winning concepts that are compelling to consumers and that are distinctive versus competition. 

Defining Innovation Objectives and Pillars – “The Three Cs”
Innovation Objectives and Innovation Pillars should defined based on the “three Cs”: 1) the current and future needs of your customers and consumers, 2) taking account of the competitive environment, 3) looking to maximize the current strengths of your company. And importantly, they should be agreed with key stakeholders. Once agreed they should drive the inputs for an innovation project, help to determine who should be involved, and to help evaluate the final ideas that are produced. To help define the objectives, teams should consider the following questions: 

  • What are our your Brand’s current strengths and strategic priorities e.g. equity values, available technology, pipeline technologies, are we growing, are we maximising profit? 
  • What unmet and future consumer needs or deeper insights can you exploit? 
  • Where is consumer demand strongest (sectors or markets) and what areas are likely to grow? 
  • In what areas are consumers looking for new technology and innovation? 
  • Where is competition most active and are there other barriers to entry that we should avoid? 
  • Where is the potential to generate the greatest growth or profit potential? 
  • Should focus on areas that drive business in the short term or longer term (tactical / incremental / step change)?

Two Examples to Consider
One example comes from a business school story case study of a company that produces night viewing optics. As defence contracts dried up, they wanted to innovate and expand into new markets. They finally came up with an Innovation Objective “to generate new technologies to make the invisible, visible”. They used this objective against different Innovation Pillars covering different customer profiles including surgeons, sailors, security guards and the police. This direction helped the company develop winning optical technologies to help surgeons conduct internal operations.

A second “simple example” comes from a sun care company who wanted to generate new product ideas. In the past, innovation was focused on different formats e.g. pre-sun, sun screens, after-sun etc. After a review of the market they decided to be much more focused against the biggest market opportunity...“to win on the beach with adults aged 18-34”. They then defined four Innovation Pillars based on different consumer profiles e.g. people who want sun kissed skin; people who want maximum protection / avoid skin cancer; people who simply want convenience and finally, for people with young kids. This approach help to generate some new and winning sun screen technologies.

This content was originally published by Ideas First . Visit their website at

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Ideas First

Wargrave, , United Kingdom
About Ideas First:
Specialist idea generation and product innovation agency. Projects run globally with high-energy workshops and unique online innovation tools.

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