The search for Next Practices can be intimidating. Fortunately, there’s a pattern in the path from early insight to in-market innovation, a recipe that has been proven time and time again. Here are the specific steps that I follow when helping brands define the next evolution of their experience.
Step 1: Exploratory Research
You’ve identified a problem or an opportunity, informed by internal data, outside consulting or maybe it’s just a hunch. Wherever it came from, it’s time for a little due diligence to determine the best way forward. In Step 1, the goal is to use the scrappiest methods possible to challenge preconceived notions and test hypotheses, both of which are risks to real-world success. The information sources used can be traditional or bleeding-edge, primary or secondary, qualitative or quantitative. They are always hand-picked with an intention to support the eventual output: an informed, storytelling-driven springboard for ideation, which starts in Step 2.
Step 2: Concept Development
Once research addresses any significant unknowns or even uncovers new opportunities, it’s time to jump to ideation. What are we going to do and how are we going to do it? Best case scenario, this happens as a multi-disciplinary team, including relevant specialists, domain experts, and key stakeholders. The process can take many forms, occurring in a central location or remotely, across the country or around the globe. Like in Step 1, there are many techniques at-hand; they are structured steps that help guide a team in thinking and collaborating more effectively. Whatever those end up being, the eventual goal is always the same: coming up with better ideas and deciding on which one(s) to put to the test.
Step 3: Prototype Testing
With a direction settled upon, it’s time to preview its viability; a proof-of-concept can test an idea in several ways. Paper prototypes test very early ideas at low cost, whereas clickable or functional prototypes are better for ideas that are further along. For ideas that aren’t interface-oriented, like a physical experience, there are options like 3D-printing or play-acting (for a service flow). The results of these methods will help determine whether or not the idea is a good one and if it deserves additional resources. All learning is good learning and, ultimately, there will be three possible decisions to choose from: return to step one and start over, move to another challenge altogether, or, if testing was successful, start producing the idea for the real world.
Step 4: Go-To-Market Strategy
New touch-points and experiences often need additional support, whether it’s an awareness-based marketing push or other supporting tactics. A plan can be outlined to guide you through this process.
Step 5: Ongoing Reporting & Maintenance
Once in-the-wild, it’s important to continue observing a product or service’s performance and take action to optimize. Sometimes this means making improvements on the fly, other times it means identifying insights for future efforts.
That is all. If you have any questions about these steps or are interested in either Core or Secondary services, reach out here. For a refresher on what Next Practices are, click here. Visit my Projects page for examples of work that demonstrate the services outlined here. And finally, browse through a growing collection of tools and techniques on my Resources page.