It is reported that James Dyson built 5127 unsuccessful prototypes of his vacuum cleaner before hitting the jackpot. A good idea, patience, persistence and lots of experiments definitely paid off. Experimentation should be considered as an integral part of the innovation process. Successful innovation is almost impossible without it. Through experimentation you can identify flaws within your idea early on, it helps to lower the risk of failure and you gain a lot of vital knowledge about your product or service you are about to launch. You could choose simple, small-scale experiments, or complex, big-scale ones. Either way, you should go for the experimentation that suits you best, and that is in line with the goals within your innovation process.
From idea to created value
(Almost) every innovation process starts with an idea. Unfortunately that idea is far from perfection and it needs to be refined and improved. As soon as that is done, and once you’ve identified its main characteristics/aspects, it is ready to be tested. Thanks to modern technology, computer modelling and simulation and rapid prototyping, you have the possibility of executing a great number of experiments. This allows you to collect a huge amount of data, analyse it rapidly, and go back to the drawing board to make iterations if needed.
It is not unusual that you are having misconceptions about the main aspects of the product or service you are developing. Thanks to experiments, you get to find out what are the main characteristics of your innovation that your customers value the most. Sometimes it turns out to be quite the opposite of your original assumption. Implementation of simple and fast experiments will provide you the flexibility to make fast adjustments and be more efficient. This will save you time and money since you won’t be spending months of hard work on something that will inevitably fail.
Of course there are also types of innovations that require more complex types of experiments. Either way, every innovation process should include some kind of experimentation that will provide tangible data about your new product or service. This is important because every innovation process has many uncertainties and unknown factors that can affect the end result, and you’d want to bridge all those gaps. With every attempt you are one step closer to a fully developed idea, ready to hit the market. Even when the innovation is launched, you still have many aspects to keep track of and many experiments to perform at almost every stage of your product’s life cycle. Collected data will help you not only with that specific innovation, but will be a valuable knowledge source for your future innovation processes.
Learning from mistakes/failure
Every experiment, no matter the outcome, is a lesson well-learned. It helps you navigate through all the uncertainties of your innovation process. Even the failed experiments provide you with important information and answer many of your questions. They point out the gaps and flaws within your product or service on time so that you can take adequate action and make certain corrections. The feedback and the data you collect after every experiment should be delivered on time so that you can react efficiently. In every new round of testing you get to use the information from the previous round and fine-tune your assumptions in order to find out what works and what doesn’t. Failure is simply a normal part of the experimentation process that brings you a step closer to your goal, even if it doesn’t seem that way most of the time. The innovation process requires a lot of patience, persistence, hard work and belief in your idea, even when it seems that all is impossible.
Depending on your unique needs and the innovation process itself, you chose the experiment that suits you best. There are plenty of ways to test your idea/innovation/ product or service, many tools and technologies to make your job easier. It’s usually not a “one size fits all” process, but what you do have to pay attention to when choosing or creating your experimentation process are these elements/points:
- Specify the goal of your experiment. What do you want to achieve with it? Is the experimentation in line with your innovation process? When you have a clear objective it will become obvious what your next steps should be;
- Define your key assumptions/hypothesis about your idea. These are the focal points you are trying to prove (or disprove) through testing;
- Chose metrics which will provide you with exact data you need to make further decisions and come to relevant conclusions;
- Collect and analyse data;
- (Go back to the drawing board if needed, make adjustments and repeat)