1. Maddock Douglas Innovation Briefs • Helping you anticipate, navigate and overcome the challenges of innovation.
Speed to Market
Maddock Douglas • Helping you anticipate, navigate and overcome the challenges of innovation.
Time and Innovation
By Doug Stone, Senior Vice President Strategy and
Lauren Schwartz, Innovation Strategy Manager
A new client who had been put in charge of his company’s innovation project sat across the
table. He was looking tentatively at the project plan we had developed together. “We have
to go faster,” he declared. “Can we somehow shave a couple of months off of this?”
Our response was not what our client expected to hear: “Are there any consumer trends
inﬂuencing your desire to go faster that you’re feeling pressured to capitalize on? Is doing
so worth the risk of making it all the way to market before realizing that your assumptions
about these trends might be wrong?”
Clients who are new to design strategy always ask us the speed question, and it reminds us
that consumers (in this case our client) ﬁnd it difﬁcult to articulate their own needs.
The lesson typically learned as executives participate in our professional design services
(aka innovation management, design thinking, new product development, etc.) is that
speed is less important than an organization’s ability to moderate it effectively. In fact, it
becomes a barrier when considered as a throttle-to-the-ﬂoor necessity.
That’s not to say that being ﬁrst to market doesn’t have its advantages. After all, SPAM®
owns the compressed-meat-in-a-can category and the Snuggie®
is unlikely to see any
meaningful competition. However, the problem is when speed to market is prioritized over
speed to learning, speed to quality and speed to designs that consumers want to pay for.
To illustrate this, think about the iPhone that many Americans now rely on to manage their
daily lives. Yet, Apple was not the ﬁrst smartphone to market. In fact, the iPhone lagged
behind Microsoft and Research in Motion (RIM), owing much of its success to the iPod
(which, by the way, was not the ﬁrst MP3 player to market either). Rather than speed, both
the iPod and iPhone owe a good portion of their success to intelligent supplier contracts
and intuitive user interfaces, resulting from Apple’s ability to leverage ecosystem trends
and new technology to help consumers in new ways.
The choice to focus on correctly timing a
product’s development rather than making it
ﬁrst to market has the power to transform
Since proﬁtably meeting consumer needs is like hitting a moving target, organizations
practicing design strategy can moderate speed in two ways: 1) through the use of consumer
research to inform design decisions, and 2) through the use of ecosystem and technology
trends to time the best launch strategy. By using research and trendcasting to moderate
speed, organizations can manufacture serendipity by identifying the moments when
demand, advocacy and technology are best aligned to optimize market adoption.
2. Speed to Market
Let’s turn back to the iPhone as an example. In order to time the ﬁrst 2007 iPhone
introduction, Apple started by identifying an unmet consumer need they were positioned
to address using their core capabilities: the need to make internet content, particularly
video streaming, more shareable. Apple knew they could leverage their expertise in
hardware/software integration to meet this need in new ways, so they began consumer
research, prototyping and testing to explore how technology might enable more
meaningful sharing. Rather than speed to market, Apple’s goal was speed to learning.
However, equally important was their ability to track ecosystem and technology trends.
For example, Apple timed their product launch to coincide with a trend in eroding proﬁt
margins among cellphone carriers, increasing the odds that designing for mass market
appeal would unshackle them from carrier demands. They were the ﬁrst hardware
manufacturer with complete control over the base software installation.
They also leveraged steadily increasing cellular bandwidth availability to revolutionize the
ways in which content could be shared. While business strategy projections predicted that
the iPhone could capture 1 percent of the global market in 2008, their properly executed
design strategy actually sold over 3.4 million iPhones — or about 28 percent of the market.
The design strategy behind the iPhone involved the use of speed as a tool, not an
objective or outcome. At Maddock Douglas, we work with our clients to develop a corporate
competency in design strategy by increasing speed to learning and leveraging external
trends, resulting in more proﬁtable and scalable product launches that help consumers in
revolutionary new ways.
This expertise is not formulaic and cannot be simply observed, installed and repeated. It
does, however, include some basic tenets that innovation leaders can use to reframe how
they think about speed. These practices increase the likelihood of making it to market with
a product consumers want to pay for and decrease the likelihood of experiencing a large
and costly product launch failure:
1. Conduct consumer research to instill consumer empathy in the organization
Ever wonder why luxury brands seldom falter or go out business? One explanation is
that the executives are attitudinally and behaviorally aligned with the core consumer
and are living the consumer experience on a daily basis. This tight personal integration
(e.g., status-driven executives making decisions for status-driven customers) is not
fool proof, but it does offer an often invisible advantage in the speed at which market
changes are felt and responded to.
Design strategy requires that the organization engage with consumer research so that
the most often debated (and sometimes misaligned) consumer assumptions are tested
and validated before informing design and development.
This is why the goal is speed to learning rather than speed to market, since reaching
market more efﬁciently and effectively means testing hypotheses with consumers as
early and often as possible.
Despite advances in data collection and analysis (e.g., smartphone, chat groups, social
media data mining), the real speed beneﬁt comes from equipping an organization to
better consume research ﬁndings. The challenge is working inside the organization to
integrate research into decision-making processes.
3. Speed to Market
One broadly effective method is co-creation workshops that involve cross-functional
teams. In the span of two days, employees will have an understanding of, access to and
functional experience with research that typically could take months to work its way
through an organization.
2. Active new product/service/capability management
The management of initiatives meant to develop new products, services or capabilities
for a company is a relatively new competency. Many clients will attempt to manage
innovation using their existing core business strategies, such as existing funding
metrics or management processes. However, it quickly becomes obvious that relying
on what’s worked in the past to meet familiar needs in familiar ways will not work
to meet unfamiliar needs in unfamiliar ways in the future. At best, only evolutionary
innovation will be supported in a typical project prioritization process.
The best way to inﬂuence organizational growth is to inform idea management and
funding decisions based on where ideas map across a well-balanced innovation
portfolio. This results in four separate sets of projects, each requiring different time
horizons and implementation methods to reach success.
When mapping an idea to the innovation portfolio, select the appropriate quadrant
based on: 1) how difﬁcult it will be for your organization to develop the idea, and
2) how predictable consumer demand is for the value you intend to deliver.
Each innovation quadrant should move at a different pace. And by having projects running in all
quadrants simultaneously, a company can continue to launch new products, services and capabilities
to drive growth and demand.
Equally important is the recognition that each of the quadrants should be evaluated on
a quarterly basis to assess whether the external factors they depend on have changed.