The Rapid Innovation Strategy: How I Got My Client an 86% Increase in Output (Without risk or spending a fortune) by Nils Vesk
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The Rapid Innovation Strategy: How I Got My Client an 86% Increase in Output (Without risk or spending a fortune)
by Nils Vesk
Last update March 1, 2023

Bonus Material: The Rapid Innovation Strategy Swipe File

This rapid innovation strategy is not ideal for all business leaders.


It is designed for risk-averse leaders who want consistent AND profitable innovation at minimal risk.

In fact, it’s the exact strategy I used to generate an 86% increase in innovation output in 6months for one company (tracked using pre, during and post-innovation metrics):

If you want to get industry-leading innovation and profitable market-leading business offerings, then THIS is the innovation strategy to do it.

Grab my Rapid Innovation Strategy Swipe File below to see spreadsheet templates examples from the strategy.
Then read on to rapidly complete your own low-risk innovation strategy and increase your innovation output and success.

If you’re just starting to get innovation off the ground, or running a team of people who need to innovate, then I recommend you read this first
The Rapid Innovation Strategy: How I Got My Client an 86% Increase in Output (Without risk or spending a fortune)
by Nils Vesk
Last update March 1, 2023

Bonus Material: The Rapid Innovation Strategy Swipe File

This rapid innovation strategy is not ideal for all business leaders.


It is designed for risk-averse leaders who want consistent AND profitable innovation at minimal risk.

In fact, it’s the exact strategy I used to generate an 86% increase in innovation output in 6months for one company (tracked using pre, during and post-innovation metrics):

If you want to get industry-leading innovation and profitable market-leading business offerings, then THIS is the innovation strategy to do it.

Grab my Rapid Innovation Strategy Swipe File below to see spreadsheet templates examples from the strategy.
Then read on to rapidly complete your own low-risk innovation strategy and increase your innovation output and success.

If you’re just starting to get innovation off the ground, or running a team of people who need to innovate, then I recommend you read this first
The Rapid Innovation Strategy: Results-Focused Innovation (Without disruption or over-complication)
Market disruption, emerging trends and emerging technologies… are all important factors to focus on for long-term innovation. But nothing beats an innovation system that delivers consistent, validated insights and ideas that the market is willing to pay for year after year.

Here’s what that looks like:
Ask any innovation expert or leader how to create innovation, and they’ll tell you this:

1. Find a problem or market need
2. Create a stack of ideas to solve the problem or satisfy the need
3. Prototype to show you can solve the problem
4. Build your innovation/ business offering and launch it

That’s an old strategy from 2012.

Here's what that outdated strategy looks like:
The competition to lead a market is so fast now, you could innovate for months on a project and find that someone has beaten you to it. And even if you get it to work, you have no clear strategy to determine if your next innovation will succeed.

I used The Rapid Innovation Strategy To Increase Innovation Output By 86% In 6 Months And Create 9 New Products For Release in 12 months (typical annual release 2-3 products)
For the last 6 months, I’ve worked with a leading global company. Six months after executing “The Rapid Innovation System”, we increased innovation output, innovation behaviours and culture. 

Those new innovation skills converted into 9 new products for release versus the average 2.5 products per year.

Over the 6 months, we learned an important lesson: the finished quality of prototyping was not significant. What was most important was being able to validate upfront way before considering prototyping anything. This accelerated the whole innovation process. It meant time-saving, money-saving and faster success for those validated.

Another thing we learnt is the IQ level of the people wasn’t critical.

What’s more important is the type of practical techniques and processes you can teach them, the inspiration you create, and the permission you give them to innovate.

We went from an organisation whose innovation was committee-centric, micro-managed, and seniority-based to self-assessed innovation processes. This led to faster idea assessment, transparency, better strategic fit, and higher success rates.

The results? More people innovating successfully and less time or money wasted.

We didn’t waste time building expensive full-scale prototypes. We didn’t force disruption or run idea storm competitions. Disruptions and innovations came naturally as a by-product of what we did.

What did we do?

The 3-Steps To Using “The Rapid Innovation Strategy” To Create Consistent Innovation That Converts Into Profits

There are three main steps to executing The Rapid Innovation Strategy Successfully.

Step 1. Validate that you have identified problems that the market really wants to be solved, OR validate that an emerging opportunity or trend is something people really want.

Step 2 Validate that the market is willing to pay for a solution.

Step 3. Validate that you can effectively solve the problem or satisfy the need/ desire.

Below is a breakdown of how every part of the strategy works. But first, let me tell you what this has to do with it being rapid.

Have you ever been excited to innovate and then felt as flat as a deflated balloon when shown that you must complete a 30-page business case report for your innovative idea to be considered for commencement?

You don’t just give up. You tell everyone else not to bother too.

Risk is a real and present danger. So much so that we see risk managers threatening everyone if they do anything remotely risky. And that gets translated into lengthy, overcomplicated, time-consuming forms or processes designed to get you to not submit an innovation.

Most people believe that innovation has to be risky. WRONG! In fact, thousands of companies, including Google and AirBnB, to name-drop just a couple, use proven processes to eliminate the risk of innovating. And the secret method is rapid validation. This secret weapon makes innovation fast and almost all but eliminates risk.

Validation is not to be confused with prototyping. Validating is proving a hypothesis or concept works and that people are ready to buy it. While some prototypes can be used to help validate a concept, a prototype is usually optional to validate that the market is willing to pay for a solution.

The reason so many businesses fail at innovation is they go about it in the wrong way.

Most innovation projects only bring in validation after prototyping. That means there has been a massive investment in time, energy, resources and money to reach that stage. And nothing has been validated yet. That means they are risking a LOT.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Let’s find out how…

file_download
Bonus: I created a helpful resource for leaders with techniques that we use within The Rapid Innovation Strategy. You can access it for free here - The Relaxed Leaders guide to Getting Anyone To Innovate (Without Threatening Violence).
Step 1. Validate that you have identified problems that the market really wants to be solved

Chances are you’ve already identified some bottleneck opportunities or problems customers have complained about. These are what are your customer insights. If you’re not up to speed on these, I’ll give you a quick overview later. Another insight can come from an emerging trend.

The biggest mistake you can make is to pick an insight to work on based on a hunch. While hunches can sometimes work, usually, they lead to lots of trouble (ask the Hunchback of Notre Dame). Just because you think it’s an idea worth solving doesn't mean anyone with a wallet feels the same.

Validating that you’ve got a problem genuinely worth solving can be done in less than a couple of days, eliminating roughly 30% of your innovation risk upfront. It can be done for next to nothing. Here's how to do it:

First up, sort your insights. These are the problems you think people want to have solved. For example, one insight I might have is that customers really hate the time-consuming sign-up process to become a customer.

I use three simple criteria to decide which insights I want to validate:

(i) Workable: “How untouched is this insight? Is it virgin territory, or have some tried before? How unmet is the need?” By unmet, I mean, has someone tried to address the insight but failed? 

(ii) Willingness or Market Problem: “Is this a real problem the market wants solved?” This is important. You might think it’s a big problem, but what does the market think? 

(iii) Winnable: “Can you address this insight faster and better than the competition?” Speed and the ability to execute are crucial. “How soon can you run with it?” 

Now I can put a score to each insight to help prioritise which ones to validate.

Suppose the problem you’ve identified is publicly known. In that case, you can use some of the following research hacks to get some objective data to prove whether you have a problem people want to be solved.

Here are just a few of what we recommend to our clients to research:

  • Customer service chat logs
  • Read product or app reviews
  • Industry forums & working groups
  • SEO keyword analysis
  • Google Trends search

The more people talk about a problem or ask for a solution, the more evidence you have to validate it.
 

Here are the top five ways to quickly build something inexpensively to validate the merit of your insight.
  1. Fake door testing/feature stub - Build a clickable webpage button for a solution you are considering developing and place it on your website. Have the button direct viewers to a landing page or simple explanation you are evaluating the interest in this new product. If people are clicking on it consistently, it may be worth developing.
  2. Spoof landing page - Build a landing page that discusses the problem and how your yet-to-be-built idea solves it (don’t mention it’s not finished yet) with a clickable button to find out more or buy now. Redirect to a sign-up box to capture their email for further communication and potential sales. 
  3. Test Advertisements - Create advertisements for your yet-to-be-built solution on social media or elsewhere. By monitoring click-through rates (CTRs) and engagement, you can get metrics on demand for the solution. 
  4. Classified Advertisement - Run an ad to get people to purchase a product before it’s complete or get people to preregister their interest or sign up for your future solution. Also, used to gain feedback on a solution. 
  5. Product Demo Video - Create a realistic step-by-step tour of how your potential product solution would work. This can be added to your landing page. This is a standard technique for any Kickstarter.com project.


You could take your list of insights (problems you think people want to be solved) and create a simple spreadsheet recording the data you collect, like the one below.

You can get a free spreadsheet template here in my swipe file.
 

I hate the term’ stage-gate,’ but really, that’s what validating is right up front. If no one wants the problem solved, it doesn’t get a green light. Period.
 
This saves time and oodles of money.
 
Now it’s time to test whether the market will pay for a solution.

Step 2: Validate that the market is willing to pay for a solution

So now you’ve nailed that people agree you have a problem worth solving. Kudos to you.
 
Knowing that you’ve got a problem worth solving makes it much easier to create ideas on how to solve it. With a handful of idea generation (ideation) prompts up your sleeve, generating ideas can be fun and fast. If you don’t have any ideation prompts, you’ll find a stack of battle-tested ideation prompts in this guide here.

 
We need to validate that the market is willing to open their wallets. Some people might want a problem solved but are unwilling to pay for the solution. And if they’re reluctant to pay for the solution, your efforts might be better focussed on a solution that people will pay for.
 
There are several ways to test the market’s willingness to buy from you, and the best test will depend on your solution. To help you through this, I have identified the top four techniques to ensure the market will pay for your idea.

Here are the top four most effective ways to test whether your customers are ready and willing to pay for your solution.  
  1. Run a Paid Event on Problem and Solutions - Running an event around the identified problem insight is an efficient way of assessing who agrees with the problem. The cheapest event to create is a webinar or a meet-up session. 
  2. Create a Buy Now Simulation - Have a buy-now button connected to your spoof landing page so you can track how many people commit to purchasing it. Redirect the customer to a “thanks, but we’re not quite ready to ship that product yet” message.
  3. Collect Pre-orders - A simple way of gauging interest in a product that might be under development or still being considered. You can take payments or hold until the product is ready to ship. It’s essential to be transparent that the product isn’t prepared for shipping and the stage of development before any payments are taken. Consider a 100% money-back guarantee.
  4. Spoof landing page - Build a landing page that discusses the problem and how your yet-to-be-built idea solves it (don’t mention it’s not finished yet) with a clickable button to find out more or buy now. Redirect to a sign-up box to capture their email for further communication and potential sales. 

 
Some additional ways that you can validate the market willingness to buy includes:
 
Pre-sell physical before digital - Before investing in building an online product, test to see that the physical versions work and people will buy. You might end up with multiple income streams, not just digital but also physical.
 
Crowdfunding - Posting your solution on crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter.com and Gofundme.com are simple ways to generate funds and gauge interest in your product solutions. Ensure you have a good video demonstration of how your product will work once complete. 
 
Classified and social media ads - Create advertisements for your yet-to-be-built solution to run on social media or in classified ads with a link to a buy now button and page. You can get metrics on demand by monitoring click-through rates (CTRs) and engagement.
 
What you’re doing is testing the buyer’s intent.

IMPORTANT: While having a customer visit a landing page validates the desire to have the problem solved. It does not validate the buyer's intent. You really want to get people to click a buy-now button. If people visit a landing page and click, you have the stats to validate their willingness to buy. If they’re not clicking, the offering needs tweaking, or the desire to open the wallet is not there.
 
I’ve worked with one company that found the easiest way to run social media ads with the shop now button. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work best for YOU. To see what works best for you, you’re going to brainstorm and prioritise which market validation technique to use using this market validation matrix.
 

In the example above, I might run two types of validation experiments.
 
Remember, the primary goal of your market validation is to get data on who is willing to buy.
 
Now it’s time to talk about how you can validate that you can actually solve the
problem

Step 3. Validate that you can effectively solve the problem or satisfy the need/ desire

Looking at the diagram above, most people would consider that the order is wrong and that validating the solution should be one of the first validation activities. WRONG! I, along with my clients, used to make this type of mistake many years ago. 

The old strategy was to generate an idea to improve or solve a problem and then go out and prototype and prove you can solve the problem.

More often than not, people were trying to solve a problem that they wanted to solve. Still, unfortunately, only some people agreed, and not everyone wanted to pay for a solution. That’s why we hear so many stories about innovations that failed. They might have solved a problem, but no one wanted to pay for it. That’s why we focussed on the first two steps before testing we could solve the problem.

Your ego will try and convince you to test your idea first, but that’s a recipe for high risk and failure.

Okay, so now that’s out of the way. And you have already established that the problem is worth solving and that a market is willing to pay for a solution. We want to test that we effectively solve the problem.

The trap people fall into here is to build an expensive, fully operating prototype of their idea. Rather than making a complete prototype, you create a fast, inexpensive prototype to test one component for your solution. 

For example, you might make a paper prototype to show how a user might experience an app you have designed. You then have something you can quickly test on someone and use to elicit helpful feedback. 

Before diving into testing, it’s vital to prioritise what to test first. People make assumptions about how they can solve the problem with their idea. 

To help you establish which assumption to focus on, it pays to assess it with some criteria. A risky assumption has high uncertainty and high implications. Any assumption that is both high in uncertainty and high in implication is an assumption you want to test before you test any other assumption. 

The assumptions plotted furthest into the top right corner of the graph are the ones you need to test first. You’ll find that the uncertainty level decreases with each series of validation tests. The more the uncertainty decreases, the lower the risk. An assumption of high uncertainty with low implication might not warrant being tested until much later, if at all. 

For example, being uncertain about which colour of your landing page graphics will work best: blue or green. The uncertainty may be high, yet the implication is so low that the testing priority sends it to the bottom of the list. 

Once you have plotted your assumptions, write them into a prioritising list for you to act on. Consider placing the assumptions as validation tests you must conduct into your calendar. 
The Top Five Ways to Test Your Solution Effectiveness

 

  1. Paper or Cardboard Prototyping: Paper or cardboard is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to build a conceptual prototype of an idea. Yes, even yours. Even if you don’t have a physical product—for example, a digital service—you can still create a paper or cardboard prototype to explore how different components might work together. Try building a prototype with various pieces of paper to show how someone might interact with it or show the interface and systems of how it might work. 
  2. Mashup: Imagine you’re a modern-day Dr Frankenstein, and you have to stitch together all kinds of odd parts to build your product prototype. Use whatever existing systems/components/elements that exist and combine them to achieve a rough version of your end result. To avoid building something from scratch.  The secret often lies in finding ways to connect the separate functions. If you’re playing in the tech space, using a Zap from Zapier will usually enable you to join something together. 
  3. Five People Test: Test your product separately on five qualified targets. Observe how they use it and ask open-ended questions about their behaviour, such as, “Why did you—?” “What were you thinking when—?” “How did that—?” “Where do you—?” “When would you— ?” “How often did you—?” “What else—?” 
  4. One-feature product/minimum viable product: Just as many apps are now developed to solve just one problem. Your one-feature prototype should aim to solve just one key issue. 
  5. Quick Exposure Memory Test: Test what people can recall or understand about a solution after looking at it for five seconds. Questions to consider asking after the five seconds include:
    • What was the product selling? 
    • What do you remember the most? 
    • What was your overall impression of —? 
    • What did you think of the layout? 
    • Was there anything that hooked your attention to taking action? 
    • Could you see the point of the product/service/feature? 
    • Can you tell me what you thought of—? 
    • What was the worst/best thing about—? 

Digital Tools to Build Your Rapid Solution Effectiveness Experiment 

You can use hundreds of tools to help build your validation prototype, even without tech experience. From gadgets to automate a repetitive task to tools that enable you to create a digital prototype, there are so many cost-effective and often free tools you can tap into having no tech experience. 

Remember, the focus is to build something you can test quickly and cheaply. 

The simplest way to find the right no-coding digital tool is to do a google search. You can find a no-coding required tool to help build your prototype by searching with the prefix no code. For example, <no code app builder>. 

Here’s the main category of prototype building tools (without coding or tech experience) that I find my clients need: 

Here’s what you need to do next:

Create a plan on how you will build your prototype to test your market’s appetite. 
Next, determine the parameters you will test your prototype against once you’ve created it and how you will measure the results.  
Run the experiments, measure what happens, review your results, and determine what you need to learn next. 

To find which solution validation experiment to use, you’re going to brainstorm and prioritise which solution effectiveness validation technique to use using this solution validation matrix.

A note of caution, do not get caught in the trap of creating a beautiful prototype. Test the biggest uncertainties with the most significant impact first.

Now let’s start to wrap this up.

Validating the problem, market, and solution are not the only steps you need to create successful, consistent innovation.
 
When you get these 3 strategic innovation steps right, something amazing happens.

Suddenly, the problems and ideas you worked so hard to validate begin to bring in results.

Products or business offerings that customers lap up, bringing you sales, profits, recognition and reward.

To your competitors, you look like a world-class innovator, and you become the preferred solution to your customers. 

Why does this strategy work so well?

1. You’re eliminating the risk upfront by validating demand.
2. You’re preventing wasted time, money, or projects that will belly-flop.
3. It gives you confidence, justification, and evidence to back up the decisions to proceed with an innovation
4. It’s rapid and inexpensive to do
5. It creates infectious innovation energy for the whole organisation
6. It’s simple and easy to understand and implement
7. You avoid innovation fatigue. Instead of experiencing failed projects, you have innovation successes

Here are some common questions I get when I show CEOs or Innovation Managers I consult with how to execute this strategy:

"What part of the business should we be innovating on?"


An additional component to this Rapid Innovation Strategy is conducting a business review:

Running an annual business review will enable you to analyse what’s been happening and what will happen in your business. Your mindset should be analyst meets futurist. You want to know what’s been working and what will work next.

To innovate consistently, there are behaviours you need to stop doing. Some actions should continue, and there will be some new initiatives that need to happen.

How to do it:

  • Identify four or five key categories you want to base your innovation strategy around: production, process, sales and marketing, or delivery.  
  • Create a chart with the categories drawn as rows, and the stop, continue, and start sections as columns. 
  • Create a section for the implementation challenges identified. 
  • Identify specific behaviours, processes, or procedures and write them down.


Here are four prompts to help you in your business review:

  1. Build: Describe the biggest bottleneck in your industry or business when building your product or service.
  2. Process: Describe the biggest bottleneck in your industry or business regarding the processes of your product/service.
  3. Sell: Describe the biggest bottleneck in your industry or business when selling your product or service.
  4. Deliver: Describe the biggest bottleneck in your industry or business when it comes to delivering your product or service.


Another common question I get is:

"How do I get buy-in from the rest of the organisation?"

Most business people (in fact, research shows 9 out of 10) are risk averse. They subconsciously will do everything they can to avoid innovating because they believe innovation is risky. Showing people how validation eliminates the risk will gain support from nearly all those 9 anti-risk people.

The other tip is to keep people involved throughout the journey. Ask them for problems they’re seeing or hearing and ask them to help validate and generate idea solutions.

One final question is, "What are the biggest obstacles we’re likely to face when executing (constructing) this innovation cost-effectively once it’s all been validated?"
 

One of the obstacles in executing is knowing what to do. Let’s face it: chances are if you’ve been really thinking outside of the square, there’s likely to have been some giant leaps in thinking, and despite your prototypes giving you great learnings, there might have been some moments when you couldn’t even think who would know the answer to your problem.

If you hit the obstacle, how do you do X? It would help if you asked better questions. 

Unfortunately, many of us never even get to ask questions. We hit an obstacle, for example, not knowing how to do X. After repeatedly hitting the barrier, we slowly give up. We haven’t turned the obstacle into a solvable question, or the question we ask hasn’t been specific enough. More often than not, a complex problem comprises a subset of issues that need solving. 

Be specific with your questions. The more detailed your questions are, the clearer your solutions become. 
  
Does your question need to be more— 

• Tactical? “Is this the right action we need to be doing right now?” or “What specifically is stopping us from building or executing this?” 
• Technical? “What alternative ways can we attack this?” 
• Logistical? “What specific steps need to be taken in what order?” 
• Physical? “How do we reduce the load that occurs at this juncture?” 
• Mental? “What can we do now that will enable us to get some traction?”

Now that you’ve fine-tuned your questioning technique, it’s time to look at the 9 fundamental principles behind a successful innovation execution.

Consider these nine principles to ensure innovation execution success:


1. OUTSOURCEABLE—the ability to outsource the production of your reinvention project 
2. CONSTRUCTIBLE—the ease of implementation to put your invention together 
3. USABLE—how easy, intuitive, and frustration-free your product or solution is to use 
4. FUNCTIONAL—how well a product or service works and performs 
5. DESIRABLE—the aesthetics of your product or service and the appeal it creates 
6. AFFORDABLE—the cost of constructing your solution and the cost of using it 
7. AUTOMATABLE—the use of technology to automate several or more functions 
8. LOGISTICAL—the supply chain and distribution of your project 
9. EFFECTUAL—the effectiveness of the solution concerning the problem it’s trying to solve 

Want to see what outsourcing and execution hacks we use with our clients? I have created the world's most comprehensive innovation program that can help you to accelerate your business results by mastering low-risk innovation to get more money, gain industry recognition, and be in demand. Find out more about The Breakthrough Innovator Program here.

Want to see what outsourcing and execution hacks we use with our clients? I have created the world's most comprehensive innovation program that can help you to accelerate your business results by mastering low-risk innovation to get more money, gain industry recognition, and be in demand. Find out more about The Breakthrough Innovator Program here.

Now You Try It

Consistent, successful, low-risk innovation is built on a winning validation strategy.

But creating just one big prototype and hoping for success isn’t a scaleable strategy.

Sure, it can succeed once in a blue moon. Be we found a more scalable, safe, bankable solution. The Rapid Innovation Strategy.

It’s helped us scale our client's innovation in countries worldwide. From North and South America to Asia and the Pacific.

With this strategy, you can start to have innovation run on autopilot (without begging people to innovate or threatening violence).

To get started, get help from me to make your innovation strategy a success:

Then model what I did to build your own rapid innovation strategy!

Nils Vesk
March 01, 2023

Now You Try It

Consistent, successful, low-risk innovation is built on a winning validation strategy.

But creating just one big prototype and hoping for success isn’t a scaleable strategy.

Sure, it can succeed once in a blue moon. Be we found a more scalable, safe, bankable solution. The Rapid Innovation Strategy.

It’s helped us scale our client's innovation in countries worldwide. From North and South America to Asia and the Pacific.

With this strategy, you can start to have innovation run on autopilot (without begging people to innovate or threatening violence).

To get started, get help from me to make your innovation strategy a success:

Then model what I did to build your own rapid innovation strategy!

Nils Vesk
March 01, 2023


About Nils Vesk


He's the founder of Ideas With Legs.

His  clients call him a Reinvention Renegade. Nils Vesk is an international authority on innovation and the inventor of the ‘Innovation Archetypes Process’.

Around the globe, leading companies such as Nestle, HP & Pfizer turn to Nils to share his proven innovation techniques for formulating commercial insights, ideas, extraordinary customer experiences and irresistible products.

Nils unpacks the million-dollar innovation principles used to create rapid growth for the future.

Nils is the author of a number of books including "Ideas With Legs - How to Create Brilliant Ideas and Bring Them to Life", and "Innovation Archetypes - Principles for World Class Innovation".


About Nils Vesk

He's the founder of Ideas With Legs.

His  clients call him a Reinvention Renegade. Nils Vesk is an international authority on innovation and the inventor of the ‘Innovation Archetypes Process’.

Around the globe, leading companies such as Nestle, HP & Pfizer turn to Nils to share his proven innovation techniques for formulating commercial insights, ideas, extraordinary customer experiences and irresistible products.

Nils unpacks the million-dollar innovation principles used to create rapid growth for the future.

Nils is the author of a number of books including "The Reinvention Sprint", "Ideas With Legs - How to Create Brilliant Ideas and Bring Them to Life", and "Innovation Archetypes - Principles for World Class Innovation".

We've helped these renowned firms and many more

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