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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 04-Oct-2018
Posted by: Daniel ZAPFL
Category: Innovation goals

Innovation Methods Matrix - with the right method for innovation


Innovation needs method. In addition to the innovation process, various methods are important for finding and generating ideas. But which ones?

Innovation management offers an extensive collection of methods to this end. Innovation management makes use of a wide range of methods. On the one hand they come from marketing, product management or creativity and on the other hand there are many tools that have their origin in innovation research.

The fact that innovation needs method can unsettle many people unsure whether they have the right methods in their repertoire and use them correctly for their tasks. It requires a broad methodological competence in order to be able to decide when which method is most suitable and effective. Companies often choose access to discover an innovation tool that inspires them and they look for applications in the company.


How to choose the right innovation method

This presentation and the following innovation methods matrix offer a very good help to find the right innovation method for you. It is a list of common and established innovation tools with their application possibilities, which are specifically geared to the innovation goal and thus to the type of innovation.

  • Technological solution:You are looking for a technological solution to a technical problem, a research question, a production process or as a basis for a new product. For example, a new surface technology for desk tops is needed to make them more scratch-resistant and robust.
  • Product improvement: The aim is to improve an existing product from the customer's and user's point of view, for example by improving the operation of a heating control system.
  • Product innovation:This is about finding ideas and concepts for new products that are completely new either for the company or on the market.
  • Business model innovation:The business model innovation is more comprehensive and concerns the customer benefit, the logic of how to deliver this customer value (added value) and how to generate profits. For example, a printer manufacturer innovates its business model from sale to rent with full service.
  • Service innovation:Service innovations can relate to services that the company sells directly or additional and improved services for products and projects. This also includes, for example, the optimization of the customer process.
  • Ideas and Inspiration:This classification is the general search for ideas and approaches that in turn inspire concrete ideas. For example, an internally organized ideas competition provides many ideas that often cannot be implemented directly, but can be the inspiration for further innovation. Among other things, it allows you to find ideas you wouldn't have been looking for.

Trend Collection Innovation management


In addition to the innovation objectives described above, there are other indicators that guide and influence the decision for an innovation method.

  • Application complexity of the product - How important is the user knowledge of the customers and how much potential does the integration of the customers have?
  • Technology-driven - What potential does new technology have as a basis for innovation?
  • Structural possibilities - Do you have access to the necessary stakeholders such as customers or users as innovation suppliers? Do stakeholders also have the skills to find innovations?
  • Effort and Budget - How many resources in terms of time and money are available?
  • Knowledge of methods - Do you have professional skills for the methods available internally or externally?
  • Potential of the method - Does the method find the innovations you are looking for?

For the last question, the following matrix is particularly helpful and recommendable. It clarifies which method can be used for which task and innovation goal.


Innovation methods matrix

This matrix combines the common and established methods for innovation identification and indicates for which kind of tasks or innovation goals they can be applied.

Black in the matrix means that the method is very optimally suited for this innovation goal. Dark grey indicates that the method is suitable, but not the most effective choice.



Brief description of the innovation methods

Contract R&D is an open innovation approach. It is the assignment of a university, a research institute or a technical service provider to find a technical solution for a specific task.

The observation of customers and users in the application of the product or definition of the problem that the product is supposed to solve brings clear realizations about the needs of the customers.

Big Data is the analysis of data volumes that have arisen, for example, as a result of interaction with customers. The evaluation and analysis should be used to interpret patterns in order to identify new trends and requirements.

The Blue Ocean strategy is used to identify or develop new markets. They are the basis for new business models as well as products and services.

Brainstorming is the classic creativity method that is used for all kinds of tasks and in the course of all other methods.

Alex Osterwalder's Business Model Canvas is the tool for the development and conception of new business models.

Cross-Industry Innovation is looking for analogous companies that operate a related business model or have similar technologies as a basis. Innovations of all kinds can be identified through analysis or an exchange of experts.

In crowdsourcing platforms such as Atizo, you ask a community a specific question to look for solutions and innovations. These platforms can be used very broadly for all innovation goals. However, one must always consider the possible quality of the ideas, which depends above all on the size, quality and competence of the community.

Customer Experience Design is the design of interaction points with customers and offers potential especially for service innovations.

Design thinking is a very powerful innovation method. It is strongly oriented towards users and customers and brings innovative solutions for products, services and business models.

Ethnography as a participatory observation is also a very user-oriented method. True to the motto "Walk in your customer's shoes", it delivers customer-oriented innovations.

Focus groups with customers are a kind of group discussion. Existing products or concepts for new products are discussed and analysed and ideas for product and service innovations are developed.

With idea management systems, every employee can submit ideas for all kinds of improvements and innovations. This means that the entire workforce is continuously involved in the innovation process. Because of the broad orientation, there are often fewer concrete, mature ideas, which is why idea management is also a tool for inspiration. However, it can be used very well for product improvements and innovations by focusing and integrating sales.

While the idea management is running permanently, ideas competitions are temporary and mostly for a specific question or topic. Employees and/or external parties such as customers, users, suppliers or external innovators can be involved. Due to the focus, quantity and quality are usually higher than in idea management.

Jobs-to-be-done is the analysis of customers' jobs. True to Levitt's motto "Customers don't want a drill, they want a hole in the wall", customers and users are visited, analysed, observed and interviewed to identify their actual jobs and needs.

The Kano model analyses customer needs and customer satisfaction. It offers interesting insights, but delivers less concrete innovations.

The competitive analysis considers the competition and its products and services to find out where their strengths and weaknesses lie. This identifies potential for new products, but also opportunities for differentiation.

During customer visits, customers are visited directly directly on-site or during the application of the product. The proximity to the location where the company's services are used is intended to shed light on new opportunities for innovation.

LEAD User Workshops involve progressive, even very innovative customers. New product concepts are developed together with them. Due to their needs and knowledge, these LEAD Users have a very high potential for innovation.

Netnography analyses the traces and feedback of users in forums, social media, product evaluation platforms, etc. in order to identify problems with products and new needs.

In pitching contests, employees or external innovation concepts can be presented their ideas to a selected jury. Prior to this, they are supported by experts to bring the concept to maturity. The jury will then decide on the further processing of the pitches, especially with regard to funding and support.

Scenario technology uses trends to develop future scenarios that form the basis for brainstorming.

In the course of technology scouting, new technologies are sought through networks, research, at trade fairs and conferences etc., which is the basis for technical solutions or new products.

Trend analyses consider megatrends, industry trends and other future influencing factors and their impact on the company. Based on this, new ideas emerge.

TRIZ is the theory of inventive problems-solving. Its inventor, G. S. Altschuller analyzed thousands of patents and thus recognized technical solution principles and patterns. With TRIZ, these solution principles are applied very effectively to technical challenges.


Conclusion: Innovation Methods Matrix - with the right method for innovation

There is a huge repertoire of innovation methods available to those responsible for innovation. This has enormous potential to find many new and innovative ideas in order to increase innovation performance.

But you don't have to master every tool in detail. Instead, the innovation method matrix does an excellent job here. It helps to understand what methods are available and what they can be used for. For the individual methods it is sufficient to understand the basic principles. For concrete projects, it is advisable anyway to bring an internal or external method expert on board as facilitator.

For successful companies, this understanding of methods should extend to marketing, product management, sales and production, because they are important active players in the field of innovation, even if many are not aware of it. Many innovation methods can be applied very effectively in the day-to-day business of these areas.

Innovation Check

Daniel ZAPFL

Born in Graz, Austria. After positions as project manager & head of innovation of the project management at LEAD Innovation, Daniel Zapfl has been responsible for the success of the innovation projects of our innovation partners since January 2018.

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