Rapid instead of slow Innovation Success

The buzz word „innovation” is often associated with great and quick success. However, contrary to this wide held belief, truly new product or service ideas require often several years - if not decades - to become widely accepted (see graphic). 73% of all new products launched every year are flops. – Already the Nobel price winner J.M. Keynes has observed: “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas , but escaping the old ones.”

Also the wide held belief is wrong, that superior “objective” product quality will result “automatically” in success. Hundreds of products clearly won in tests of „Stiftung Warentest“, Germany’s leading independent test organisation – but weren’t bought subsequently in sufficient quantities to survive.

Experience has proven again and again that „great“ innovative ideas and better „objective“ product quality does not guarantee success. Innovation, by nature, is both, risky and costly. A great majority of new products never makes it to the market and those new products that enter the market place face very high failure rates. According to Fraunhofer (2009), one of Germany’s leading innovative organisations, 1919 initial ideas are required, in order to launch 52 new offers, of which again only eleven become sweeping successes. That means that only 0.6 per cent of all initial promising creative ideas lead to great success.

Therefore it is not really the main problem to identify future flops, but to identify those new ideas which have greater potential and can be further optimised and developed into greater successes.

What are the major reasons that promising innovations often fail?

How can you transfer a great creative idea into rapid and sweeping innovation success? New ideas have to be created, collected, evaluated and successfully executed. This may sound relatively easy, but in reality represents for most companies a tremendous challenge.

Market research is more and more often used to evaluate innovative ideas. But it is also accused, that it would „kill“ truly innovative ideas, the potential future „mega-successes“. On the other hand you hear complaints, that market research results would promote “minor” improvements, which later are flops or do not live up to expectations after being launched. - In some cases these accusations may be unjustified, but indications are that conventional market research has at least some major difficulties if “real“ innovations are analysed.

New ideas are usually discussed in explorations, concept tests or focus groups. Often potential target group members are requested to assess truly innovative ideas just after short explanation. For really innovative ideas this requirement is at least difficult, if not impossible to fulfil. Experience has proven that the majority of innovations initially fail due to emotionally or factually sub-optimal details which cause misperceptions and therefore rejection. Often the real benefits of an innovative offer are not communicated well, arising subconscious fears are addressed in the wrong way, or relevant target groups struggle to understand how the new innovative offer will influence their everyday life. This can often cause (unnecessary) fears, aversion and therefore rejection, which again may result in spontaneous rationalisations such as: The idea is superfluous, unnecessary, not socially or environmentally acceptable or only attractive for other target groups (usually with negative associations).

On the other hand sometimes also “false” euphoria can happen if minor “innovative” improvements are researched, because respondents feel more familiar with that solution, but overestimate the effect in real life.

It should come as no surprise that you can't always believe what you hear in qualitative and quantitative research or anywhere else – namely if it comes to true innovations. Some people still believe that any interviewer or moderator who can put participants at ease will get them to talk "openly," creating the "right atmosphere" where the truth will come pouring out. This attitude has all too often led to findings which are clear-cut, simple, non-ambiguous and wrong.

And some people think that it's easy to verify the truth. They increase the number of explorations, groups or interviews. If people keep repeating what they found in previous explorations or groups findings are confirmed. This is the height of gullibility. Maybe all they are getting are the same old rationalisations or lies over and over again! They confuse confirmation with consistency. – This is often the recipe for another flop.

Clearly, when it comes to research of innovations we need to find ways to help people to familiarise themselves with new ideas, get in touch with their deeper motivations and fears, help them find ways to express this material, motivate them to do so and find ways to interpret what comes out. We need to get beneath the surface, to understand conscious and sub-conscious market drivers and barriers, in order to identify those new ideas which have greater potential and to provide concrete optimisation advice to develop them into great successes.

A new solution: Limbique Emotional Explorer (LEE)

Recent findings in brain research have proven that 95% of all „decisions“ are made unconsciously or emotionally – not rationally. When the so called limbic system decodes innovations it searches for answers as such: What is the benefit if I use such a new offer? Are the consequences positive or negative for me? How will I feel during and after use of that innovation?
Rational answers to abstract questions are usually insufficient. The solution to this dilemma is: „to ask without asking.“ Exactly this is strength of the Limbique Emotional Explorer (LEE), a qualitative technique developed in a multi science approach to gain deeper and broader understanding of consumer (or other stakeholders) motives and barriers.

A LEE group usually requires a total day (about 8 hours including breaks) in order to allow longer warming up and to generate subsequently a thorough understanding of emotional and rational reactions towards specific innovative offers. Participants find LEE groups to be challenging, intense, creative and rewarding. They are asked to express and explain their feelings, associations and thoughts about the research topic, using a vast array of method adapted from psychotherapy, cognitive neuroscience, psychology of emotions, behavioural economics and sociology. The LEE specialist takes participants through a series of exercises designed to reveal the unconscious fundamental feelings and beliefs that drive their behaviour towards the innovative offer.

Each LEE step or exercise provides a different opportunity and often perspective for gaining deep insights about consumers or other stakeholders. The use of multiple exercises also increases the likelihood of unearthing important insights that might be missed by more narrowly focused techniques. At the same time, each step provides validation from other steps, a process known as convergent validity. That is, redundancy adds confidence about the validity of the initially hidden insights which come to the surface.

The LEE therefore provides a holistic approach to understand the consumer. Consumers often become aware of their motives for the first time and can express the emotions connected with them. And they do this in a way which managers can follow and understand.

Experience has proven that the success of positioning and communicating an innovative offer presents a knife edge problem: There is only a real chance for sweeping success when the innovation meets an emotional and factual need profile precisely and prevents the development of aversion and fears. Success of innovative offers can come only from a solid foundation of knowing your customers and uncovering relevant cause and effect chains. The rest should be seen for what it is – a lottery.

LEE insights have often turned innovative offers into successes which initially would have been failures.

The following case studies indicate the opportunities:
Beck's Gold Case Study DYMO Case Study LEKI Case Study PerfectDraft Case Study WD-40 Case Study