Innovating Fast And Efficiently With Structured Innovation


Innovating Fast And Efficiently With Structured Innovation

Andres van Vugt

Innovation is hard work and must be managed like every other business transaction. Only by following a strict structure can it succeed. Structured Innovation can be used efficiently for functional innovation, to distinctively lay down different services or to establish a creative culture. Internally, we’ve been working with it for quite some time. Recently we’ve started incorporating Structured Innovation as an offer for our clients.

The necessity for this lean and agile way of working is triggered by the fast and ever-changing development of the market. Technologies and tools embraced today as essential can be out of fashion tomorrow. Studies show that 24% to 49% of all resources enterprises invest in innovation seep away into products no longer viable in today’s market. This makes a structured method not only interesting, but also an obligation to improve business.

It all revolves around centralizing the entire innovation process within delimited phases: the Stage Gate-approach. Digitas defines three subsequent phases: Vison, Design and Scale. A project will only step up to the next phase if it answers to all substantive conditions. Already within the first phase (Vision) of the process we involve the client – and if possible the end-user. That way we get a good view on the underlying needs. In short, what is the question behind the question?

This makes a structured method not only interesting, but also an obligation to improve business.

Produce burden of proof
By means of iterative user research and prototyping we elaborate on getting answers in the Vision - Design phase. By visualizing it, the client becomes more involved and gets a clearer idea about the process. At the same time we produce the burden of proof needed to finalize the business case in the subsequent phase: Scale. Without this burden of proof projects are unable to rise to the Scale phase and will therefor be cancelled. The chance that projects that do reach the Scale phase will become successful is far bigger than with traditional processes.

This also brings an end to situations we find no longer feasible. For instance, when a client simply tosses us a briefing and expects results within half a year. Using numerous visualisation tools, like stakeholder and customer journey mapping we take our clients along on a joined quest for the optimal end-result. 

It’s an extremely transparent way of working that, thanks to the collective input of our specialists, the internal know-how of the client and the end-user, often leads to unexpected and excitatory ideas.

Important insight
For example, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca asked us to think about promoting heart medication. Pretty tricky, taking into account that this is a highly regulated line of work, where direct commercial communication towards the prescribing physician is forbidden by law. During a fruitful brainstorm with some of their employees, heart-patients en also a pharmacist, we came to an important conclusion and insight: a lot of heart-patients need to be committed to the hospital because they forget to take their medication. This proved the perfect starting-point and it became the leading thought in the promotion and gave it an absolute added value.

After considering some possible options, like an app with an alarm clock that tells you to take your meds, we finally went into the Design phase with an idea to set up a coaching-program for heart-patients. Not exactly an idea fitted to big pharmaceutical companies. Yet, thanks to the shared Vision process, the client was aboard 100% form the get-go. And after answering all the critical question that arose together like, technology, return on investment and the added value for the client, belief and trust in the concept only increased.

Positive reactions
After the successfully executed Scale phase the platform is now being used by numerous leading health care organisation, like the American Duke University. Judging from the many positive reactions it seems the end-user utilizes the platform in full. They support and motivate each other to keep a keen eye on their timely medication intake. Also AstraZenica is very happy because the sales of the product have increased dynamically since the launch of the concept.

Andres van Vugt

Andres van Vugt


Andres works according to the Fit For Purpose & Scale Method, combined with the KISS Principle. He believes in creating structure in the hectic IT landscape. In 2011 he was nominated for IT Manager of the Year by Computerworld.


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