Skip to Main Content

Innovation Sprints – Why Walk When You Can Run?

Every company now wants to be a tech company or at least feel like a tech company. As a result, the idea of agile innovation and innovation sprints has moved into even the most conservative legacy companies. Actually, it’s often those companies that are most enthusiastic about bringing a bit of tech energy to their workplaces.

But how do you do it well? Where can you successfully run and where do you need to walk? The below process is CPG-focused, but can be adapted to a range of industries.

The logistics

  • A small group of no more than 10 people

  • A mix of backgrounds (marketing, finance, procurement, manufacturing, insights, etc.)

  • A commitment of one week.

  • Dedication – sprint participants have to ignore other work for the week.

  • An illustrator and copywriter in the project team. They are there to ensure that you leave the sprint with illustrated, written ideas.

We recommend an innovation pipeline sprint to develop ideas

  • Your agency partner or facilitator (you have one…right??) should review the relevant existing information and uncover everything you have in terms of jobs to be done.

  • If you don’t have this information, you need to either do new research before the sprint begins or the project team needs to do some participatory exercises that help them to determine what the jobs to be done might be.

  • Day one is about identifying and organizing the jobs to be done and deciding which will be a focus. The team needs to identify and remain focused on addressing real needs throughout the process.

  • Day two we recommend starting with some shopping. Individuals are tasked with a job to be done and shop for existing products that address that job. As an example, a job to be done might be “healthy breakfast that does not leave me hungry an hour later”. What’s available now that addresses that job? Go broad and get everything that might “do” that job.

  • The afternoon of day two involves uncovering patterns. In what way does each product the team bought address the job to be done? What are the characteristics that allow it to address this job? What are the pain points associated with each product? This gives us two lists – a characteristics list and a pain points list. From here we can move to brainstorming. What products can we develop that would maintain the key characteristics while also eliminating a pain point? Pairing characteristics and pain points frees people to think in new ways and not just rehash the ideas they brainstormed last year.

  • This process repeats for the other key jobs to be done that were developed in day one. The goal is to leave with 100-200 product ideas that address a range of jobs and pain points.

From there, we move to screening ideas

  • If you have a copywriter and illustrator as part of the team, you will leave that session with written, illustrated ideas that can move straight into testing.

  • Here we use Upsiide, our innovation screening methodology. We test your ideas vs. in-market products. These in-market products provide clear benchmarks for success. 

  • Upsiide requires only a week to run. After that week, we reconnect to identify ideas that are rising to the top that we want to explore in more detail.

  • In a CPG context, we often recommend a second stage of Upsiide where we focus on the strongest ideas and identify the optimal mix of variants, claims, names or pack designs. If, for example, we identify microwaveable breakfast pizza as an opportunity (you know you want it!), here we would test 20-30 potential variants to identify the strongest mix to take to market. It is possible to execute similarly fast and flexible Upsiide tests to figure out other executional elements like benefits or claims or naming.

And now you should stop sprinting and walk carefully

  • Innovation sprints in technology often involve launching MVPs (minimum viable products) and “failing fast” and iterating / pivoting. That does not work in CPG, where manufacturing, distribution and listing fees are all hugely expensive. Failing fast in CPG is just failing.

  • As the focus turns to how to successfully execute the innovation, we recommend a considered approach that focuses on figuring out your packaging, sizing, pricing and store placement. At Dig, we typically employ a Virtual Market methodology here. A Virtual Market is a virtual equivalent of a test market. We utilize an online shopping interface similar to Amazon to explore demand for your innovation vs. in-market products. Note that this interface is used because consumers understand online shopping. It’s not about only optimizing innovation for the digital channel. In this virtual market, we can play with sizing and pricing (regular and sale), package design, naming, category placement (is your breakfast pizza in the pizza section or next to the eggs?) and translate each of these changes into a business case that includes projections of volume, revenue and profitability. This methodology is not sprint-velocity, but it gives teams the information they need to successfully sell innovation to internal decision-makers and retail partners.