Innovation, and product development is inevitably a risky exercise. There are high levels of uncertainty. There is a risk your endeavours may not be successful. There are frequently times when you simply get ‘stuck’.
Whilst having a great team around you can help you get over many obstacles, there are times when even that doesn’t help. Sharing the same experiences, carrying the same baggage and operating with similar constraints means internal support only gets you so far.
So what’s the answer? In this age of Open Innovation, the “not invented here” syndrome should no longer be a ‘thing’, with many companies receptive to seeking outside support, and appreciating the many benefits of obtaining a fresh perspective:
Product development is a massive undertaking. Numerous factors must fall into place at the right time, in the right order to achieve success. By taking the challenge and dealing with it in a more step-wise fashion however, it is possible to get there in a slightly less painful way!
Let’s look at each of them in turn.
Cambridge Wireless (CW) recently organised a CW Unplugged event exploring how technology can support and aid autistic children and adults. Fresh Perspectiv was very pleased to be involved in the event, facilitating the ideation sessions that were one component of the evening.
The event brought together academics, charities, parents of children with autism and product development experts. The reality of living with autism and current research focused on the area were discussed and then separate ideation sessions considered two different challenges facing the study and commercialisation of “Autism Tech”.
One technology discussed was virtual reality (VR) that has the potential to enable the user to experience myriad things in a safe and supportive environment. VR itself is rapidly becoming mainstream, with many applications being developed from entertainment and education through to architectural planning, and exploration of consumer behaviour.
VR offers great potential to support the large number of people with autism and their friends and family. The potential support could take many forms, depending on an individual’s need but for example could provide:
A core challenge, is to move VR for Autism to a stage where is it commercialisable and scalable, putting it in a position to help the maximum number of people possible. This is not a straightforward process, and an ecosystem of players is required from the hardware developers through to the families themselves and the charities and campaign groups.
Here are 5 key steps that will help the process move in the right direction.
1. Defining the Value Proposition
It is vital that ‘VR supporting autism’ develops into a better defined and articulated value proposition. As indicated above, there are several different scenarios of use for which VR can help those with autism. Each scenario will be compelling to different customers or user groups and greater understanding of this will help to determine how and where there is greatest opportunity or opportunities for VR
2. Defining the customer
Based on the value proposition, content and so on, it is important to identify the customer, in terms of who pays for the system. For example, a number of local authorities have been purchasing VR equipment for schools. Does this represent the best route to market?
3. Obtaining data
It is important for the future development of this area that an ecosystem is established with different stakeholders willing to provide a particular component into the overall VR product development process. This includes gathering the necessary insights to inform the value proposition and also to ensure evidence-based technology claims. Data to demonstrate efficacy (and thus enhance confidence in the approach) is vital especially if there becomes a need to get large hardware or software organisations on board. It is important to consider:
4. Developing content
Autism-specific content is yet to be developed, at least not to any great extent. Typically, researchers using VR in autism are using off-the-shelf content that has been developed for mainstream schools or other mainstream applications. Bespoke content is however clearly a vital component to enable specific evidence to be obtained, which will also help to further define the value proposition. As a number of organisations are developing software tools making the creation of content easier to do, it is anticipated that autism-specific content will become more widespread.
5. Defining the opportunity owner
As outlined above, an ecosystem of organisations and individuals with an interest in advancing the use of VR in autism is required. To move the potential of VR to the next level, this will likely require one organisation to combine the components into a coherent product, combining the hardware, content, an understanding of autism, and a defined value proposition along with distribution, marketing etc.
This article is not intended to be exhaustive and cannot possibly include all the considerations necessary to get what is both an important and complicated product to market. However, it is hoped that the areas outlined above will stimulate further discussion, continue to build momentum and encourage others to take on the challenge of commercialising technology for autism.
How to see the wood for the trees: How characterising your client base can help define your go-to-market strategy
You have a great product. Technically, the performance is better than expected. You know you can manufacture it at acceptable cost. You have settled on your target market. So far so good.
So, who’s your customer? Being able to answer that question may be the difference between success, and the whole house of cards falling down.
Ultimately, to have a viable business, you need to be able to provide a product or service to a customer who derives value from that product or service such that you can sell it for more than it costs you to provide it. It is important therefore to understand the customer, and the value they will perceive in what you are offering. Further, you need to understand who the customer is (who is paying, i.e. a hospital) as opposed to the consumer or user (who may not be paying but will be benefiting, i.e. a surgeon).
Whether you have a medical device that could go into hospitals or be sold through insurance companies, a new healthy beverage that could go direct to consumer or be sold in offices, or a new coating product that you are convinced has an opportunity somewhere within the automotive supply chain, understanding and being able to articulate who your customer is, is vital.
There are many factors to consider when identifying customers, however here’s three key areas to think about…
Understand the Ecosystem
For any product or industry, it is important to understand the ecosystem or supply chain and define where within it you can play. For example, getting a new smart packaging product to market involves many different suppliers, each of whom may be a potential customer for your new technology. Depending on the benefits and value you are promising, you may need to target anywhere from the NFC antenna manufacturer to the filler or the brand owner.
Define the Benefits
For each of your potential customers within an ecosystem, the benefits and the perceived value they derive from their interaction with you may well be different. Is it the speed of production for the NFC chip manufacturer, or the fact the technology also has aesthetic qualities that appeal to the brand owner that might be more compelling? Are you actually a threat elsewhere in the chain?
Ultimately, you want to identify those for whom your key benefits are most compelling
Test, Test, Test
You now have hypotheses along the lines of
“I believe that within market X, customer segment Y is the most interesting because they will perceive the value of benefits A, B and C”
Time to get out there and test!
How can you get your products to market more efficiently? You have great ideas, a great team, investors onside. All is well, but somehow the final piece of the puzzle doesn’t quite fall into place. Issues with the technology, commercial strategy or overall product concept keep you from getting to market. How can you overcome these hurdles? Whilst traditionally the answer would be to keep working on a solution within your own four walls, your chances of success increase dramatically if you explore options from beyond your own organisation. From start-ups and SMEs to large multinationals, “open innovation”, or the adoption of knowledge, solutions and capabilities beyond traditional organizational boundaries, has been used to successfully bring products to market more efficiently time and again. So, if you’re not already using it, why should you consider using open innovation to support product development programs within your organisation?
1. There is no need to reinvent the wheel
It is surprising how often problems in one industry have already been explored and solved in another. Organisations seeking to keep manufacturing facilities clean have learnt from anti-fouling coatings on ships, food manufacture from control of emulsions in the personal care industry, and agricultural land surveying from military drone technology. There may also be situations where one industry is trying to remove a particular issue, which actually represents a potential solution to the challenge you are facing. Further, by combining multiple external technologies, something even more powerful might be realised, providing a better solution than any approach on its own. It is certainly worth exploring whether someone else already has an answer waiting for you, or if something can be combined with your existing approaches.
2. You get a fresh perspective on the problem
You are living and breathing your technology and your product concepts. No one knows it like you do, right? That also means that no one else has the baggage like you do. Seeking external support to better define the problem, challenge your conventional wisdom and provide stimulus for problem solving may be what you need to take your product to the next level.
3. You get access to additional technical or commercial expertise
With the best will in the World, you cannot have a monopoly on relevant expertise for your area of interest. In this age of spin-outs, start-ups and regular restructurings, this is even more true now than ever before. There are likely people beyond your organisation who can help to accelerate you to success. Why not tap into that expertise as well as that available to you internally?
4. Opening up even greater opportunities
You may be happy with the performance of your product in its home market. But what if it could be launched into a whole new market or geography. Imagine the possibilities! By partnering with organisations or experts already playing in those areas, you may have a quick route to capitalising on these opportunities through expansion of product portfolios, access to their technology, use of new brands or even price points.
5. Your current and potential users can help to define and refine your offering
There is lot to be said for checking what customers want before you go too far! By engaging with external users and stakeholders, it is possible to obtain feedback on existing products or technologies to identify frustrations and unmet needs. This may yield new product concepts or even whole new markets and opportunities for you and your company.
©Fresh Perspectiv 2018