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Navigating Innovation Challenges From Practices 



Kirjoittanut: Omar Puebla Roldan - tiimistä FLIP Solutions.

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Navigating Innovation Challenges From Practices 

 

Introduction 

Studying at Proakatemia, innovation is a such important topic and in a certain level it has to grow in our blood. Why it is important for doing business? How we practice it during our studies? What are the tools we have used during our innovation practices? The essay will try to explore the answers. We will reflect our innovative learning journey in the end with Motorola. 

What is innovation? Why innovation? 

As an entrepreneurial student, understanding innovation is essential to navigate through the dynamic business landscape. Innovation refers to the process of introducing new ideas, methods, products, or services that generate a positive change by creating value. It is not limited to revolutionary inventions; instead, it encompasses any novel approach that improves efficiency, solves problems, and meets unfulfilled needs in the market. 

 

Innovation is often driven by a combination of creativity, strategic thinking, and an understanding of market demands. It can manifest in different forms, from incremental improvements to radical and disruptive changes. The essence of innovation lies in its ability to adapt and evolve, reflecting a commitment to staying at the forefront in an ever-changing business environment. 

 

Entrepreneurs leverage innovation as a competitive advantage, whether by refining existing processes, developing cutting-edge technologies, or reimagining business models. The goal is to remain responsive to customer needs and market trends. Innovation is not just about inventing; it is about offering solutions that resonate with the target audience and have a significant impact. 

 

As an entrepreneurial student, we recognize the importance of fostering a culture of innovation. Also, as mentioned before, we must be receptive to customer needs, which provides a panoramic view when innovating. Customers will be the ones using the product, so an innovative product must be created with empathy and an understanding of their difficulties, problems, and frustrations to find innovative solutions that meet their needs. 

 

In other words, innovation can be defined as the action of innovative processes that typically involve the introduction of new methods, product ideas, or services. This brings new ideas, methods, products, services, and solutions for a significant impact on value processes. 

 

In McKinsey&Company’s article “What is innovation?”, it talked about research they have done for 183 companies and contrasted the assessment with a specialized database of economic profit. The results shown that mastering innovation can get economic profit 2,4 times higher than other players. 

To specify it, innovation helps growth, allow businesses to expand market share. Innovation helps the business stand out from the competition by offering unique and improved products or ideas. Innovation is vital for meeting the customers’ needs and enabling business to address the changes in the market.

Innovation Tools  

 

  1. The random object – the idea behind the random object is that by selecting an object at random, an element of surprise and novelty is introduced into the idea generation process. This can help people think in a different way. The benefits include stimulating creativity, reducing people’s blockage, and promoting collaboration in teamwork. 

 

  1. L’eveil (French name?) – helps to generate ideas. Start from one object, based on the character of this object to generate more possibilities. For instance, select an object, from there can generate different words, descriptions, or feelings. Then connect them to a new concept. When needs to collection hundreds of ideas, this is something worth to try. 

 

  1. Design thinking – is a methodology centered on people used to solve complex problems in a creative and innovative way. This process is divided into 5 stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Validate. Design thinking can be used in a wide range of contexts, from solving business problems to the development of new products and services. Some of the benefits of Design Thinking include a better understanding of people’s needs, generation of more creative and innovative ideas, more effective prototypes, and products and services that are more satisfying for users. 

 

  1. Combine design thinking and lean start-up – helps to select ideas. A golden case typically give a “Wow” factor and shows the high feasibility. To find a golden case, we can use four quadrants to estimate impact and effort provides for choosing ideas. While the measure of impact and effort relies on hypotheses and experience, the visual approach simplifies the selection process. 

 

  1. Scamper – is another innovation tool that helps us generate and create ideas and effective solutions. This thinking method allows us to innovate from existing products, services, or situations. Scamper is a mnemonic that represents seven provocation techniques that help us innovate by looking at things through different lenses: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Amplify or Minimize, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Rearrange. 

 

How to use this tool? First, take an existing product or service. It could be an existing product, service, or idea that you want to improve or that could be an excellent starting point for future development. Simply go through the list and ask questions about each of these seven elements. You will be super surprised to find out how many ideas and how much innovation can come from this tool.  

This tool actually helped my team move forward from various states to the point of prototyping. Prototyping is one of the most important steps when we are innovating in my team because the Swiss team, which comes from an innovation background, excels at innovating and prototyping as quickly as possible. Something I learned from here is to try to prototype your idea as quickly as possible and gather a lot of feedback and data from the prototype. When you create the second prototype, you will have many features that the customers or users want to see in the product. This allows you to have a better understanding from the customer’s point of view. 

Innovation in practice 

Summer Academy 2023 – Innovation week 

In August, we participated in the Summer Academy 2023 – Innovation week. It was organized by Kamil and Sanni and hosted by Proacademia and the Swiss Innokick team. The participants are students from Switzerland and Finland. 

 

The Innovation week kicked off with a workshop led by Swiss students, where they introduced several innovation tools discussed in the previous tool chapter. Sandy’s team received a challenge from the Tribe, tasking them with improving Tribe’s communication as it has been widely using multi-channels connecting with resources and customers. The initial step for Sandy’s team involved understanding customer needs, meeting with customer. The team then employed the first and fourth tools mentioned earlier to generate, categorize , and pick ideas. 

 

Throughout the innovation process, the team applied design thinking methods, practised empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and validating. Ideation posed its challenges, but the process flowed smoothly. In the process, team decided that one idea was chosen for prototyping and testing, while two other concepts (conservative and wild cards) went further exploration and were presented in the final report. The complete approach adopted by Sandy’s team ensured the customer needs were fulfilled and a successful ideation process. The solution may not be the golden case, but the team employed a unique interpretation in the presentation section, leaving a memorable impression on the innovations. 

 

One of the biggest challenges Omar faced during this Innovation week was tackling the areas they assigned us before the event. We were tasked with creating our learning contract. In Omar’s learning contract, he aimed to develop more team activities related to innovation. He also wanted to step out of the comfort zone and meet people from other cultures and countries. Another challenge he encountered during this Innovation week was the English language. Since many of the people he worked with during this week were very proficient in English, there were terms that they didn’t know, and there were terms that he didn’t know. There was also the barrier that their native language was French, and his was Spanish. When people use a language that is not their own, there can be confusion in our communication and the way using certain words. This could also hinder our innovation and communication processes during this week. Additionally, their cultural perspective, very different from LatiAmericanca or Finnish culture, caused some misunderstandings in the communication during the Innovation week. At the end of the week, the team realized that we could overcome all the challenges we faced with language and communication. 

 

The Learning Contract that was used during the Innovation week was a crucial tool for all participants, especially when we divided into small groups. This tool helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses as a team and in each individual. We preferred using the Learning Contract to assess our skills. The implementation of the Learning Contract during the week was essential because it allowed us to focus on our strengths and not just on our weaknesses in the innovation process. 

 

Raina challenge 

Before our 24-hour challenge with Philip’s Solutions, we decided to have an innovation training day at Rina Restaurant. The innovation focus for Rina was on creating a new customer loyalty program. 

 

The innovation session lasted for about 8 hours, during which we divided our team into different groups for four different tests. As mentioned earlier, it served as a training day for the upcoming 24-hour challenge. 

 

For our customer Rina, the goal was to review 50 ads and select the top 15 ideas or solutions for future use. To innovate the customer loyalty program in the restaurant, our first step was to understand our customer better. We asked the following questions: 

 

What are Rina’s strengths and core values? 

What does the main/target customer look like? Identify three characteristics. 

Do you currently collect customer data? 

Is there feedback being collected, and what are the results? 

What is the budget for this innovation? 

Have any ideas been tested previously and failed? 

What is the average amount one customer spends each visit? 

Are there any preferences for service/products, etc.? 

What is the goal for the innovation? 

Are there any space limitations for innovation? 

The answers are as follows: 

 

Rina’s core values include supporting art culture in Tampere, using high-quality ingredients, focusing on staff well-being, and providing inclusive pricing. 

Strengths: Cinema, location (pros and cons). 

Customer demographics: Morning – older people, Evening – women (25-40), men (25-40). 

Limited data collection, some data from Instagram. 

No real place for customer feedback. 

Prefer to keep it low cost. 

No existing loyalty program; main goal of the innovation. 

Average spend: €13 per customer. 

Main products: beer, wine, and pizza. 

Space limitations exist. 

The Innovation Teams were formed by five people: Esme, Kamil, Saana, Omar, and Sandy. To generate ideas, we utilized the collective brainpower of the entire team, ranging from great to more ordinary ideas. 

 

The second phase of innovation involved narrowing down the 50 ideas to create the new customer loyalty program. After matching the ideas, we selected the best ones, considering what the customer wanted. We developed each idea further and had a second discussion with the customer to explain our direction. 

 

The final phase involved creating a report, budgeting, and utilizing the business model canvas. The customer was pleased with the efficiency of the process, especially appreciating the minimized time and budget required for the innovation idea. 

 

 

When presenting the innovation idea to the customer, we prepared a 10-minute speech. The customer provided feedback, suggesting that we focus more on selling the idea rather than just presenting the process. In the end, we were pleased with the teamwork during the 8-hour innovation challenge, considering it a small preparation for future, larger challenges. 

 

In conclusion, the success of our innovation process lies not only in the ideas generated but also in the collaborative spirit that defined our team. This small-scale triumph serves as a promising precursor to future challenges, instilling confidence in our ability to navigate complex innovation endeavors with enthusiasm and expertise. 

Motorola  

What went well? 

During Swiss week, the multicultural environment not only helped us to improve the communication in English but also enriched our learning ground for diverse business cultures. Sandy’s team had relaxed vibes during the whole week. In the Raina challenge, although it is named as a practice for 24H, the entire team approached it as a real business situation. Executing the design thinking method from beginning till the end, Flip delivered concrete solutions to the customers, earning positive feedback. It also highlighted the design thinking can be in situations that are fast paced and need quick decisions. 

 

What we can improve? 

During Swiss Week, as Omar pointed out earlier, using a second language instead of mother tongue for communication made it easy to have miscommunication or misunderstandings within the team. A longer break-in might help. In the Raina Challenge, we learned that not everyone is needed all the time. To achieve high performance, the team should be flexible, and available team members should always be ready to step in when needed. 

 

What we learned? 

Exploring the different innovation tools provides a way to unlocking creative potential of a business. And, understanding how to navigate in a multicultural environment provides an extra layer to the innovative process. The diverse perspectives, experiences, and approaches often sparks new ideas. Innovation has its remarkable ability to find out golden solutions. To Raina Challenge, Flip is ready for the next challenge. 

 

What we can take into practice? 

A team functions more effectively when there’s someone taking charge and guiding them, often referred to as a leader. This leader plays a crucial role in helping the team navigate through challenges, much like a captain steering a ship through rough waters. During the Raina challenge, having a capable leader was crucial. They ensured that understanding what the customer wanted remained a top priority. Additionally, recognizing the importance of having good snacks and breaks proved to be a valuable factor in boosting the team’s  performance. It’s these small but significant details that contribute to a team’s success. 

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