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One of our clients recently referred to the front-end-of-innovation (FEI) as a “simmering pot of ideas, opportunities, opinions, politics, and fear.”  In response, I quipped, “remind me not to ask you for a testimonial for our next brochure.”  Seriously though, these feelings were founded as this client had recently completed its first ever investment in a formal FEI assignment.  Not to mention, this client also went way out on a limb to convince senior leadership that the investment was necessary to meet aggressive revenue goals.

As we further discussed our shared experience, I asked what outcomes weren’t expected.  His answer was instructive because the value of these assignments extends beyond a full funnel of ideas and a slate of promising concepts.  He also shared that there were some unintended consequences that no one planned for:

  • For the first time in a long time, there was clear alignment between marketing and R&D. A key deliverable for a FEI assignment is an innovation roadmap—an indispensable tool for an agile organization.
  • The sheer volume of output was unexpected and frankly “overwhelming.” FEI assignments can be very productive, and an infrastructure is required to manage the flow of ideas and concepts through the innovation process.
  • A clearer understanding of insight-driven innovation versus needs-based innovation and the merits of designing products around an inherent belief or motivation vs. what people literally tell you.

The story ends well.  While his first remarks about the experience were a bit frightening, they survived the FEI and are well on their way to realizing some big wins.

A lot was learned in completing this assignment, and we consider ourselves fortunate that the client shared the true impact it made.

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