Models for developing innovation

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Five stage model for innovation

Multiple models for developing innovation exist. DEPP Labs' activities generally follow a five-stage process. This process seeks to develop well-defined products or services that can benefit a specific group of users. Although this model was originally designed for ‘silicon valley’ tech-startups, it has since been adopted by other humanitarian organisations seeking to develop innovations in an accelerated environment. These fives stages are categorised by The Humanitarian Innovation Fund as follows:

1. Recognition

The innovator aims to identify and create a deep understanding a specific problem, challenge or opportunity that is important to a specific community or group of people. The types of activities to consider to achieve this objective include observing a community over a prolonged period of time or conducting interviews, surveys and baseline studies. In order to define a real problem you need to understand it from the perspective of the person whose problem you are trying to solve. It is about spending time to understand what is the real problem people versus the problem the innovator thinks needs to be solved.


2. Invention

The innovator aims to discover a new or improved process, product or service that solve the recognised problem for the identified community group. The types of activities will vary depending on the context and innovation; however, they should include brainstorming around the problem, engaging the community to see what solutions already exist and can be improved or adapted, and for prototyping.


Prototyping is the process of developing an initial, very basic demonstration of the solution. The aim is to test, analyse and refine the basic solution to demonstrate the idea is feasible and develop an improved version. Prototypes should be very basic it is a visual and interactive way for people to interact with a potential solution before a large investment is made. This is important as the more time and money innovators do to “perfect” their solution before they get real feedback from users, the more they become biased and invested to not changing.


3. Development

The innovator aims to develop a practical plan of how their innovation will be implemented. To help guide this process, the innovator should consider using a number of tools and conducting a variety of activities, including:


a. Model canvas: It is a visual chart with elements describing an innovator’s product's value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. It is meant to be a quick reference tool that takes much less time than a business plan although it covers in less detail the main elements. It is vital to iterate to learn from prototyping, piloting and discussing with your users.


b. Scaling matrix: Scaling requires building a complete and consistent system. All the pieces of a sustainable system must be in place for scale to work, this is in addition to the need for a valid pilot with evidence of value. The Scaling Matrix is a tool that can be used to help innovators measure the readiness for scaling looking at six different variables 1) the core innovation 2) adoption 3) Team 4) plan 5) ecosystem 6) finances


c. Financial review: Understanding the financial model of the innovation. This helps to create a plan for the resources that you may need at each stage of the innovation. In the long term it can help with understanding the different financial models that can make the innovation sustainable and scale.


d. Stakeholder-mapping : The process of identifying relevant stakeholders; a reasonable amount of research is required to do this effectively as some stakeholders are not immediately obvious and to understand their motivations and potential interest in the innovation and how different groups of stakeholders are related to and interact with one another. This allows the innovator to gain a better understanding of who their stakeholders are, their interests and ways to positively influence them, as well as negative stakeholders and their potential adverse effects on the innovation.


3. Implementation

During implementation, the innovator aims to run a successful pilot to test how the solution demonstrates its value compared to other available solutions. This is an important process as it allows innovators to assess whether the solution is viable and adds value, before they open it up to a broad user base. Piloting is different to prototyping.


As part of piloting, an innovator needs to develop more advanced planning, consider different partnerships, as they will need to have taken a complete version of their innovation to the users. That means innovators will need to develop the product or solution and have had found ways to distribute the innovation and solution. Both of these steps normally require partnerships and financing in order to be completed.


4. Diffusion

Once the innovation has proved itself a successful model through piloting, the innovator aims to take it to scale. This includes increasing its adoption within its original context – scaling up – and potentially wider adoption outside the original setting – scaling out. Activities associated with diffusion include selling intellectual property (IP) and creating a business.

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