By: Dr. Evans Baiya
In this article, we look at five tips to launch your next innovation, using a proven framework for successful launch and scale.
I have spent a lot of time working with university and industry researchers throughout my career, and the challenge of how to scale and commercialize ideas always comes up. It is not an easy process, especially when pitching your ideas for funding or recruiting other team members. I recently spoke at the sixth annual Nairobi Innovation Week at University of Nairobi to share my framework for successful commercialization. For the students and researchers in attendance—and for any innovator—this framework will help scale ideas.
But to start, you must first have traction. If you don’t have traction for your idea, you cannot scale. So, it is very important that the idea you have actually prompts someone to appreciate it, purchase it, or offer feedback on it. Assuming you have traction for your idea, you’ll need these five ingredients to successfully scale and commercialize your idea. If you get these things right, the possibility of your success will increase significantly.
Gather Ideas and Insights—and Lots of Them
The idea you started with is just the beginning—you actually need many more ideas. A study at University of Toronto found that to successfully commercialize an idea, you need on average 3,000 ideas. It’s a mistake I come across often to think your first idea is the best. In reality, having a lot of ideas from a lot of different people is what will actually help your solution come to life.
To inspire further ideation, ask yourself how well you understand the problem to be solved. It’s one thing for you to have idea and for it to work magic. It’s an entirely different thing for you to have a problem that needs solving. You need to be a student of the problem before you become a developer of solutions. Also ask how specifically your idea or research addresses the problem. If you are thinking of a huge problem like world hunger, no one person can solve it. But there are so many solutions that could be developed to help. How does your solution contribute? Be very specific when answering this question. Because if you don’t have enough ideas, you will stagnate.
Make Sure Your Idea Has a Clearly Defined Impact
You need an impact model to show what kind of solution you will offer, and it needs to be very clear. If the idea isn’t clear, you won’t see the impact you’re hoping for when you first go to commercialize. Get specific by thinking about both your internal and external audiences. Who, exactly will be impacted by your solution? How will their context improve after using your solution? This is the question that usually causes problems. I always like to ask how your idea will change or improve people’s lives. If you cannot answer that question, the impact and value is not clearly defined yet.
Measure Your Solution’s Value
You will need resources and finances to scale your idea, and it’s important to note that money is not the only goal here. I’ve seen plenty of companies that have access to a lot of money for their ideas, but that never get to scale. This is why you need to measure the value that your solution will create with a financial and resourcing model. If you want to commercialize an idea, the value must be explicit—this is life before the solution and this is life after.
Be clear on how you are going to measure that value as well. This is the challenge. Most people can’t tell me what resources they need, beyond money, to create and deliver their idea. So I always ask, “If I give you a million dollars, what are you going to do with it?” Only then do I get the answer I’m looking for. They say, “I’d hire a team, I’d open a factory, etc.” Be very clear here on not only what you will do with the finances, but also the other resources you need and how you will use them.
Define a Development and Production Strategy
Many scientists and inventors come up with great ideas but fail to design them to be market ready. Think about how you will design your solution, who will develop it, and how people will use it. Maybe you’ve designed an ingenious solution for a farmer. If you’re a software developer, the farmer doesn’t need to know the code behind your solution—they simply want to press a button and see the magic.
A few years ago, a colleague had an exciting solution, and partnered with a company out of Israel to develop it. But the company was just an innovation hub. This person hadn’t thought about scaling production and lost out on a lot of money because they couldn’t produce the solution at a large scale when needed. This happens all the time, so be sure to think about your ideas at capacity.
Deliver Your Solution and Engage Your Customer
This is important for both internal and external customers. I see this challenge especially with engineers and scientists who have a great solution but struggle with how they’ll make it available to the masses. Think about how your ideas will reach your customers. How will they learn about it? How will they use it and how much will they pay for it? Answering these questions explicitly will help you with financing and with reaching your specific audience.
This is also where marketing, having diverse talent on your team, and potential partnerships with different departments in your company or university comes in. Remember, you don’t have to gather all the information needed to scale by yourself.
These five elements will provide the structure you need to scale and commercialize your ideas. Without this structure, you’ll miss essential information on the impact and the value of your solution.
About the Author
Dr. Evans Baiya is an internationally recognized and trusted guide to business leaders and innovators. Using his 6-stage process, he helps the businesses identify, define, develop, verify, commercialize, and scale ideas so the businesses and individuals can learn, grow, and thrive. He is the co-author of the award-winning book, The Innovator’s Advantage and co-creator of The Innovator’s Advantage Academy, a detailed step-by-step innovation training. Learn more at TheInnovatorsAdvantage.com.