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Written by: Karyn Zuidinga

Guest Post: Balancing Idea-led and Research-led Innovation (Part 2)

Part 1 of our blog series explored the differences between idea-led and research-led innovation and the risks and benefits associated. In this second part, Innovation Research Consultant Karyn Zuidinga shares a story about trust, collaborative leadership, and finding the right balance between the two approaches.

Last year, Copperleaf® approached me with a need: “one of our customers wants a new feature and we want to validate our idea.” I suggested a layered and concurrent approach running three research projects that would each inform the other (layered) and doing them in a very tight window, overlapping the start of the second two with the analysis of the first (concurrent). The aim was to collect insights to validate the idea on the table and explore the problem space.

The research consisted of three separate, but linked, activities where the first and second were “idea-led” and the third was “research-led”:

  1. We started with group white-boarding sessions with the client support and sales teams to understand what they hear about the feature in question, what the user journey is, and identify what they’d like to learn from our clients  about it.
  2. At the same time, we ran cognitive walkthroughs with our clients who were using configured versions of our solution. We also did a walkthrough with a client who had built an in-house system.
  3. We ran journey mapping workshops with groups of clients from the same regions. This activity was very exploratory—clients described their actions, thoughts, and feelings throughout that journey.

Proceed with Caution

As effective as this kind of approach is, there can also be some pitfalls:

  1. Is it necessary? Whether or not to do a deep dive can be difficult to assess. Sometimes an idea is solid enough to simply go ahead with validation. Take a look at the history: Have we done this a lot already? What do our clients say? What do our clients do with it?
  2. Can you manage it? Setting up one research project is hard enough. Setting up three with different research plans, methods, and analysis approaches is complex at best. It takes trust, a solid team, and good process management.
  3. Can you analyze it? A layered, concurrent approach is going to bury you in data. It may pull you in different directions and you don’t know what will emerge. There might be a strong desire by the team to latch on to “quick wins” that seem like insights but are actually “red herrings”.

Key Outcomes

One of the significant benefits of this approach is that the findings from one research activity influences and supports the other. You may even discover adjacent innovations through this process.

The outcomes in this situation were excellent. We used a balanced approach between both idea-led and research-led innovation which:

  • Uncovered a significant unmet client need
  • Created a path forward for a new idea
  • Allowed us to better understood how we will position this new product offering
  • Laid the foundation for technical discussions on possible solutions

Copperleaf Labs wants to hear from you!

Copperleaf Labs is a way for clients to provide direct input on new features, functionality, and products in the Copperleaf suite. If you’ve never heard of Copperleaf Labs, or haven’t yet had the chance to participate, we’d love to talk to you. Reach out to us here.