December 5, 2011
In the world of product and package innovation, cross-functional project teams are great for pulling functional experts together and integrating work processes. But even the tightest of teams often can’t prevent critical work output from slipping through the cracks as they move from stage to stage. So, key consumer insights can be lost in devising strategy, and mission-critical strategies can go unfulfilled in concept development. Fresh consumer insights are precious. When they are lost, projects don’t have a chance. How does this happen on a project team that is seemingly humming on all cylinders?
- Under intense time pressure, teams can sometimes get too wrapped up in moving through the process steps. When it’s all about meeting deadlines, content can be neglected or watered down in favor of reaching agreement and moving forward.
- Innovation process tools often don’t bridge stages properly, providing no structured mechanisms for making sure that key outputs find a home and are properly leveraged. Gaping seams in the process are magnified by functional distinctions, leaving outputs hard to digest and incorporate in following stages. As a derivative of above, insights and strategies can be interpreted differently by team members, and subtle meaning can be lost in hand-offs.
- It can be difficult to build consensus among team members on all fronts: What are we really solving for? Which insights are most critical? What criteria do we use to evaluate concepts? How do we set priorities among strategies for functional and perceptual utility? Inevitable compromise can mean wishy-washy output that pushes a project off course.
- Early-stage concepts try to deliver on all requirements when they should be exploring the best ways to deliver on individual, highly-valued attributes. Then, many are trashed when they are determined to be infeasible. The shame of this is that these preliminary ideas may have been the hiding places for key insights that were not properly executed in the concept. When the concept is discarded, so is the place-holder for valuable intelligence.
What’s the answer to bridging the gaps in innovation? You can probably guess by reading between the lines above. But to bottom-line it: Consider one seamless process to drive work stages across functional divides. Integrated research, analytical and communications tools can work together to help focus the team on what matters at each stage. They can articulate insights and strategies in clear fashion to build consensus without diluting or distorting output. And they can drive concept development to best solve for key consumer requirements.
So don’t let the insidious flaws of teams and processes allow your next innovation project to fall through the cracks. Build strong bridges with the right tools.