Trilogy Tidings
February 2016
in this issue
     Innovation associated with the introduction of new products is a blur. Everyone does it a little differently. Different can be good. But let's at least acknowledge that the fundamental steps in the process matter and that we can all pretty much agree on what those fundamental steps are. I call my definition of those steps the "Innovation Triad". Let's agree to reduce the number of disappointing new-product launches!


The Triad: Conceptualization | Research | Testing                
     The imagination, development and commercialization of new products (actually just about any class of products) rely upon this 'innovation triad' for success. One must first develop a rudimentary product concept. Then research must be carried out to assess the commercial viability of that concept. If the concept passes muster one builds a representative prototype and tests user reactions to its intended use. Only then should detailed product development and commercialization ensue.
Better Innovation  
     You can shortcut this process, which may be possible for purposes of imitation or line extension. But real innovation requires that those three steps be taken to avoid commercial failure. Let's focus on each of these steps in turn.
1. Conceptualization                 
     By far the most difficult step is the first. Developing a product concept is challenging, often more art than science. But some rigorous processes for conceptualization have been tried with some success. I'm a fan of the Stanford design approach described in the book "Biodesign, The Process of Innovating Medical Technologies" edited by Zenios, Makower and Yock and published by Cambridge University Press in 2010. And I'm not alone; this tome has been widely praised. Its first three chapters -- Needs Finding, Needs Screening, and Concept Generation - cover this first step of the triad.
     An associated website is worth a visit: ebiodesign.org. And, if you'd like more detail on Stanford's 'Design Thinking' process, you can start here. That process has an expected academic emphasis, but it can really help guide your conceptualization activities.
2. Research                
     Research is a frequent -- I think, essential -- contributor to the conceptualization process to identify market needs, screen those identified needs, and assess the associated business opportunities. These are the activities most often associated with new-product research; there are multiple, well-known methods for carrying out such research. I have written before on the two key elements to focus on in conducting that research: User Needs and Opportunity Screening.
     Research has yet another role to play after a product concept is developed. One can, and should, ask a few prospective customers what they think of the concept. At this point the description may not be very precise, but that's okay. All we're trying to do is collect initial impressions and listen for their important questions and suggested improvements.
3. Testing                 
     Once a product concept is fully developed and a prototype in some form exists, it's time to critically test it by placing the prototype in the hands of some prospective customers. What we're after here is a test of the "user experience" - these days abbreviated UX - with the prototype. This is no small matter; it's primarily focused on observation. With the hardware or software prototype in hand, does the user understand what to do with it? Are verbal or written instructions necessary (not so good), or is the intended use self-evident (good)? At which points during usage does confusion arise?
     This prototype testing process is sometimes characterized as ethnography, a term inappropriately borrowed from the branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures. For purposes of prototype testing, ethnography becomes a process of systematic research based upon observing customers in their own environments while using products and services. This level of testing does not require large sample sizes, although it does require a skilled observer/moderator, and each user must be individually observed in his/her own usage environment to gather bias-free findings.
So that's my definition of an innovation triad. Try it; you'll like it. Make it an integral part of your new-product commercialization process.

What does Trilogy do? 
     Trilogy Associates facilitates business growth and renewal through commercialization of new products, providing the following services:
  • Development and critique of business strategies and plans
  • Characterization of market drivers and adoption dynamics
  • Identification and evaluation of fitting technologies
  • Surveillance of competitors and emerging threats
  • Market-testing of development-stage product concepts
  • Assessment of clinical value and comparative economics
  • Support for partnering, acquisition and divestiture initiatives
  • Quick-turnaround M&A due diligence
  • Business and technical writing/publishing

     Inquiries to establish whether and how we might support your business initiatives are always welcome.  Contact us.

Resources from our Archives 
     Check out our Reading Room to view my published articles, presentations and white papers on a variety of topics.
     And, you can examine an archive of my prior newsletters (since February 2007).
Contact Information
Joseph J. Kalinowski, Principal