New innovations are the building blocks of competitive businesses. Yet, most Finnish companies invest in machinery and facilities, while only 4 per cent of all investments go into research and development efforts.
In all likelihood, there are many reasons for this trend, but one thing is for certain. In the worst-case scenario, product development is an unpredictable and risky business that takes courage – those who lack it tend to forgo investments in innovation.
In reality, this does not have to be the case. Injecting enough facts and research data into your innovation process early on makes hitting the mark with your new product or service much easier and even likely. This is the exact need UnSeen Labs emerged to fulfill in 2015.
Agile experimentation and early testing
The approach to innovations used to be somewhat dry and formal: The focus was on preparing fancy PowerPoint presentations for the company’s managers to convince them to invest in product development. Ideas or their business effects were rarely tested outside the presentation deck. Instead, companies executed their visions almost blindly. This method obviously comes with many surprises along the way, making it much more difficult to hit the targets.
At UnSeen, we decided to use a different game plan. Instead of letting our customers rush headlong into trouble, we helped them test their innovations early on. Often testing required solving a critical challenge related to technology or business. In those cases, we applied our unique understanding of the sacred combination of software, hardware and good business.
Once we identified and solved the problems, we could try out and test the idea by means of agile experiments or functioning prototypes, directly with end users or in a laboratory setting. This gave us immediate feedback on whether our customer should continue its product development process. This approach led to both successes and other kinds of realizations because some ideas simply fell short.
Sure, it can be disheartening when your great idea turns out to be a dud, but at least the lessons learned did not burn massive amounts of money, energy and time.
“This is exactly what I ordered but it isn’t right for me or my customer”
Good news: agile experimentation in companies has become more commonplace and short-sightedness is less frequent. Bad news: a successful experiment is no guarantee that you will end up with the next killer product or service. True success comes only when a new product meets a specific business or customer need, which can be coming up with a new product or product category, improving a product, adding wireless connectivity to an existing product or collecting data from a process in order to optimize it. However, someone should be willing to pay for all of this for the endeavor to amount to actual business activity.
If an agile experiment does not reveal the whole truth, is it at all possible to predict the outcome of product development efforts?
Yes, it is. The original Labs was a great concept that produced valuable information. That said, better predictions and more results require more effort at the very beginning of the process. Once we realized this, we decided to fine-tune Labs to serve our customers even better.
Introducing: renewed UnSeen Labs
In the renewed Labs everything starts with defining the customer need, and the process is based on actual needs, not the idea itself. Once the customer need is clear, we prepare the best solutions and create an implementation plan. There is no need for technical specifications at this point – they will come later. At the same time, we define the performance indicators that allow fact-based monitoring of the solution. These indicators can be used to monitor both business-related and technical factors, such as how interesting the idea is to the target customers, how the technology works, its adoption rate, saved costs or how much the customers are willing to pay for the idea.
Only then can we proceed to the tried-and-true experimentation phase: building a prototype that ensures the suitability of the technology of choice and that generates feedback from the selected test group. We then apply the defined performance indicators to analyze and learn what works and what does not. Any possible shortcomings are then fixed and the solution is tested again.
UnSeen Labs’ process really helps in discovering sustainable innovations and turning them into products without anyone losing sleep. There is nothing better than to see the smiling face of a customer after the completion of their UnSeen Labs project. As a result, our renewed Labs ensures that all experiments answer just the right questions and research funds yield sufficient information for major investments.
UnSeen Labs – hands-on business and product design since 2015!