The Innovation Bureau Challenges
What is a Challenge?
Challenges are what we call the 3-4 months innovation projects that we conduct in our Innovation Bureau.
A challenge starts when a client asks us to solve a business problem. Over the course of the challenge, we will explore market trends, study our users, conceive solutions, prototype the most promising one(s), test with users and build a viable business plan and launch roadmap. At the end of a challenge, we provide our clients with a ready-to-launch new activity.
Want to know more? Keep reading, the sections below detail our methodology and deliverables 🙂
As soon as a challenge is launched, we bring together a team of three innovators, which mixes Design, Business, and Tech skills.
One of the team members is the “Challenge Lead”, and has full ownership of the challenge. The most important mission of the “Challenge Lead” is to make sure that everyone on the team is excited about the challenge! He/she also makes sure that the project stays on track and reaches the highest level of ambition for Possible Future and for the client. Across the span on the entire 3 to 4 month long challenge, a number of Possible Future members will get involved, beyond the core project team, especially during the ideation and prototyping phases. The “Challenge Lead” ensures consistency throughout the project.
To ensure the best communication possible within teams and with the rest of Possible Future, we rely a lot on Slack and Google Drive
Our Methodology: Explore, Ideate and Prototype!
Our challenges typically last between 3 and 4 months. A challenge consists of three consecutive phases:
Phase 1 – Explore (~4 weeks)
The first phase is dedicated to exploring the market and the users. We want to get to an intimate level of understanding of the field we’re in.
To achieve this, here’s what we work on – simultaneously:
- Analyze the market trends through all available studies and materials;
- Target specific countries and benchmark all the cool innovations we can spot in these markets;
- Spend time understanding the client and how the business is operated (through interviews, field observation, etc.);
- Map out all of the actors at stake and their interactions with one another; – Interview and immerse ourselves in the users’ lives;
- Spend time on the field, visiting and observing users in all physical locations related to the challenge;
- Meet with experts or startups working on similar topics to gather their insights; attend any major event or exhibition related to the challenge’s problematic (NRF, CES, SXSW…);
- Conduct quantitative surveys on 500 to 1000 consumers to validate;
- Synthesize our learnings & insights into an impressive graphical rendering 🙂
End of phase 1: the Immersion Day
At the end of phase 1, we have identified (and backed with facts) the key areas of opportunities for the next phase. We share the result of this phase with the client during the Immersion Day, a 1-day participative workshop that validates our learnings and starts laying out opportunities. During this day, we dedicate time to collect all the spontaneous ideas and intuitions that our client has in their mind – these ideas serve as a valuable input for the launch of phase 2!
Phase 2 – Invent (~4 weeks)
This second phase aims at diving into the opportunities we detect to imagine and define 4 to 6 solid concepts we believe in and test them with final users.
Here is what we work on during this phase:
- Ideation & debate workshops (we call them “idea-bating workshops”) where our goal is to progressively move from sessions where we brainstorm wildly and freely, to workshops where we debate, challenge and build on each others ideas, to turn them into substantial concepts. Typically we will go from over a hundred ideas during the first week to half at the end of this first week and then around a dozen at maximum one week later, down to 4 to 6 for the last two weeks of ideation;
- Determine the value of our concepts under 3 criteria: user desirability, technological interest, and commercial viability.
A powerful tool that we use to select the most promising concepts is to ask ourselves “would I spend the next 3 years of my life developing this activity?”. It really helps us refocus on the right track. If the answer is no, it will most likely be no for our client and anybody else.
- Design the wireframes and/or 3D-models of the selected concepts;
- Test our concepts with users: we do this via online tests and/or focus groups;
- Evaluate the first commercial and financial projections, and benchmark similar / existing offers on the market.
End of phase 2: the Pitch Day
At the end of phase 2, we pitch to our client the 4 to 6 concepts we have developed during this second phase of the project, in a ½-day workshop where we present the concepts, their use cases, targets and business potential. Our clients can then select one (or more) concept(s) they wish to move to the next phase. And, last but not least, we provide our clients with a “treasure box” including all non-selected ideas, where we describe each concept and detail the reason we didn’t keep it.
Phase 3 – Prototype (~6 weeks)
The third phase is when we become makers. We prototype the concept into a “Minimum Lovable Product” and design the operational plan to bring it to market.
Here’s what we do during phase 3:
- Build the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP):
We craft a prototype which is advanced enough to visualize what the end-product will look like, eliminate any remaining doubt on technical feasibility and design, and experiment the main user scenarios. This Medium publication defines an MLP as “not completely functional, but just enough to fall in love with” and that is what we aim at! If necessary, we will build two separate prototypes, a functional and a visual one;
- Design the solution:
If our concept is based on a digital platform, we will then define the target solution blueprint, including all components’ high-level architecture (mobile app, website, back-office, data engines, APIs) and the way it will communicate with its digital ecosystem (SaaS platforms, content providers, partners back-offices).
If our concept is based on an object (home appliance, connected object, vending machine) then our engineers will draw its blueprint and design its internal electronic and mechanical components.
And in some cases, it might be a bit of both!
- Define the pricing strategy:
For each revenue stream, we define the target pricing, which can be either a fixed “menu” pricing (list price, product feature dependent, customer segment dependent, volume dependent) or a dynamic pricing (negotiation, yield management, real-time market, competitive bidding). We define the target price by combining the results of 3 approaches: cost-based pricing, competition analysis, and customer price acceptance.
- Build the Business Case:
We estimate potential revenues with 3 hypothesis (from most pessimistic to most optimistic) for all different revenue streams: product sales, usage fees, subscription fees, lending/leasing, licensing, commissions on intermediary services, advertising…
We break down the cost structure, as per:
– The key activities: we estimate the human cost (in FTEs) of the main activities required for the project. These activities can include: design, manufacturing, logistics, distribution, support functions, training, promotion… For digital products, it also includes the platform’s build costs, integration, deployment, maintenance and support, and continuous product developments. This is also the moment when we determine which of these activities should be outsourced;
– The key resources: we list the resources required to build & operate the service, and we estimate their cost. We take into account both physical assets (facilities, vehicles, machines…) and intellectual assets (proprietary knowledge, customer databases, patents…);
– The key partnerships: we identify the target partners (suppliers, subcontractors, strategic allies…) and obtain a first quotation from them.
- Test the concept:
We submit the concept to users to validate its desirability, the usage scenarios, the pricing and the overall product-market fit. We test the consumers’ interest in our concept by using:
– Online tests: we create fake landing pages and measure the results of paid campaigns to acquire traffic;
– Brick-and-mortar tests: we create a 24h pop-up store and display the product
– Focus groups & usability tests: we watch users test our products in front of us and measure their interest for the concept;
– Crowdfunding campaigns (kickstarter, …) to measure traction and collect as much user feedback as possible.
- Build the launch & growth strategy:
We formalize a marketing strategy for the concept, which covers:
– Brand-building, and key elements of the customer-brand relationship;
– Growth strategy, detailing the targeted acquisition channels and smart growth hacking tactics to boost adoption during the first 6 months;
– Digital marketing: community management, traffic management, paid media strategy…
- Formalize a 6-months operational roadmap:
This roadmap indicates in which order and under which timeline the different activities should be completed, for the first 6 months following the launch in market . The roadmap also highlights the main identified risks.
End of phase 3: the Demo Day
At the end of phase 3, we invite the client to a “Demo Day”, where we proudly show the outcome of our work. At this point, the client has all the material required to make an informed decision of Go/NoGo to launch the activity.
A challenge brings us and our clients from a business problem to a ready-to-launch activity within the course of 3 to 4 months. At the end of the challenge, we deliver to our clients:
- The prototype, in the form of a Minimum Lovable Product. The prototype has the target visual aspect (UIs or product design) and is functional enough to simulate the key use cases and demonstrate feasibility;
- A technico-functional brief (written document <10 pages) describing the concept’s functionalities and structure, as well as the technical solution: blueprints, high-level architecture, integration plan;
- The business plan, which is a detailed Excel file that lays out all financial projections up to 3 years after the launch, taking into account the market study, including competition analysis & opportunity analysis; the product: main functionalities, user journeys and high-level technological solutions and the strategy, including key partnerships, pricing strategy and growth strategy;
- The synthesis of users feedback;
- The operational roadmap for the first 6 months with key activities and including identified risks.
Overall, we aim at providing our clients the same type of material a startup founder would require to request funds from VCs.
How much involvement from our clients?
We have designed our methodology to conduct our innovation challenges in a very autonomous way. We work from our own offices and we only ask our clients to attend the 3 key meetings at the end of each phase:
- the Immersion Day, where we present all the exploration work (market studies, users interviews) done during the first phase and start the ideation work;
- the Pitch Day, where we share the 4 or 6 concepts shortlisted at the end of the second phase and allow the client to select the concept(s) to be prototyped;
- the Demo Day, where we present the finalized concept(s) which has/have been deeply studied and prototyped.
Beyond these 3 mandatory meetings, we adapt ourselves to whatever works best for our clients. We’ve seen the following types of clients:
– the “very busy”: 120% staffed on internal priorities. Willing to fully outsource the challenge. In this scenario, we only keep a weekly 30-min call, to make sure that they won’t suffer from any “tunnel effect”. During this call, we update them on our progress, share any concern and ask their support if needed. In such case, we only ask the client team to attend the 3 key meetings mentioned above;
– the “involved”: willing to be involved to the project. In this case, in addition to the 3 key meetings, we invite the client’s team to participate to our regular meetings and workshops: exploration debriefs, idea-bating rounds, prototype-design workshops;
– the “fusional”: willing to dedicate some key resources to the project. In this case, we’re happy to invite one or several people to join the challenge team, by being physically based in our offices. It is a deep-dive in our innovation journey that enables them to discover our methodology and bring it back to their company.
Our Favorite Work Methodologies
We’ve designed our methodology for conducting innovation challenges with a great deal of inspiration from the works of other companies, entrepreneurs, and thinkers. Here are the key methodologies that work well for us:
- We draw significant inspiration from the Design Thinking methodology, as conceived by the Stanford d.school. In particular, we found many valuable elements in this “Design Thinking Bootcamp” document, for the moments of our challenges which require us to be extra user-centered;
- Rapid Prototyping: during our challenges, we’ve found that representing our ideas on paper very early on was a great way to help us share a common language. So, very early on in the ideation process, we start sketching & prototyping our ideas and we start discussing tangible objects and interfaces. We love how some simple scribbling and sketching already takes us a long way !
- Lean Startup approach: we follow the mantra of confronting our concepts to the field as fast as possible. The Lean Startup approach is all about creating desired products, and getting them in the customers’ hands faster, to validate learnings. We also apply this to ourselves, and to our own internal processes;
- On the business side of things, we often turn to the Business Model Generation and Value Proposition Design canvas by Alexander Osterwalder. We find both of these frameworks helpful to help us take a step back from our concept and consider the bigger picture.
Tools & Technologies
When it comes to the tools and technologies that we work with during our challenges, we aim at efficiency and simplicity.
We tend to go towards general-purpose technologies, widespread, with active communities. This makes our work easier to share with others and to re-use after a challenge.
When prototyping digital products, we mostly work with:
– Adobe Creative suite to create the wireframes and visuals;
– Invision to animate these wireframes and create the step-by-step user scenarios;
– Paper prototyping;
– Python for data-oriented projects;
– … or whichever technology is most appropriate for the concept (angular js…)
When 3D-modeling physical products, we mostly work with:
When prototyping physical products, we mostly work with:
– Arduino and / or Raspberry Pi modules;
– .. and dismantling existing products with our sharpened pens & knives!
When user-testing our products, we mostly work with:
– Fake landing pages;
– Usability testing.