At the beginning of a new idea, a product development or even a change of an existing product, it is important to think about several aspects:
- What is our goal, and who should benefit from our product idea?
- Does something that solves the same type of issue exist already?
- Do we expect realistic revenue from the product?
- Should the idea be IP protected?
Apart from these questions, more detailed thoughts will help you define your path to let your idea become a reality or drop it. The Interreg FucoSan project collected a catalogue of questions to help you along. If you prefer charts, then you can find help with an open-access project canvas to develop your idea. The podcast below gives you an example of how else you can address valuable ideas with the help of software that several organisations provide. We discuss this with Gerrit Jochims, CEO of IdeaChamp, a network partner in our project.
Podcast: Ideation – What it is and how to get help
At the beginning of every innovation, there is always an idea. The ideation phase is the creative process for creating, developing and evaluating new ideas. Thus, the ideation represents the motivation and foundation for constructing prototypes and new innovative solutions. Ideation can be described in the following four phases:
- Identify existing problems and customer requirements
- Generating new ideas
- Evaluation and selection of ideas
- Designing prototypes
Systematic Ideation methods and tools become more and more critical, especially as patients are treated in a cross-sectoral manner. More innovation is needed as coordination between different sectors causes challenges, lack of patient adherence, and increasing performance and cost pressure (e.g., the growing number of older people and the significantly growing number of chronically ill and multimorbid patients).
Identifying customers/user requirements
The main challenge of industry in the healthcare sector is access to users and customers, i.e. patients and healthcare providers. It is essential to bring users and companies closer together. A wide variety of methods and tools are required, especially for the ideation phase of an innovation process, which help to meet the requirements of the relevant target groups and at the same time also meet the needs of companies for the introduction of innovations in the health sector. On the one hand, this creates the basis for promoting innovation activities. And on the other hand, the basis for sustainable innovations for the benefit of the treatment of patients.
Missing involvement of customers/users in the ideation process
A significant problem in the medical industry is developing past the benefits and actual needs of the target groups. A frequent cause, in addition to the insufficient identification of the essential requirements, is the low involvement of customers or users in the ideation process. Today, doctors (mainly chief physicians) are often only included to a certain extent as possible innovators, and many companies generally lack a systematic process for integrating relevant and involved stakeholders in the generation, evaluation and development of ideas. Many classic approaches for user involvement cannot be applied due to the unique features of the health sector. In addition to the non-medical health professions (e.g. nurses, therapists, etc.) as the professional end-users, patients are also a neglected group in the health system. Still, they have a very relevant role in the ideation process. However, the possibilities for involving patients as innovators are minimal due to the lack of knowledge in medical technology and legal regulations. Targeted involvement is therefore of great importance. In the run-up to the targeted user integration, companies must clarify the following questions; when should which customers/users be actively involved and in which way in the innovation process?
Fig. The questions you need to address before integrating a user (Reichart, 2002)
The specific choice of user integration method, therefore, depends on many factors. For example, a different user/customer type should be involved depending on the desired goal of integration and the selected ideation phase. Examples are:
- Idea generation and evaluation
Determination of user requirements and development of sustainability-oriented ideas and concepts with trend-leading and innovative users that have corresponding specialist knowledge (lead users).
- Prototype and field tests
The integration of users in realistic usage contexts with experts and/or other representative users from all relevant areas for the validation and further development of prototypes.
with sustainability-oriented pilot customers (e.g. significant customers such as clinics) with the common goal of launching the new innovative solutions.
The form of integration (the how question) is determined by choice of the addressed target group. The degree of integration can be determined using classic and practice-oriented approaches (Kunz & Mangold, 2003; Fichter, 2006):
Table: Degree and methods of user/customer integration (based on Kunz & Mangold, 2003; Fichter, 2006)
A wide variety of methods and tools are available to companies to systematically involve patients and other relevant target groups in their internal ideation and thus to develop and implement more user-oriented and more sustainable innovations. The most common two variants are innovation workshops and digital idea management tools:
- Innovation workshops: In addition to relevant users such as doctors, other health professions, internal and external experts or even patients can be involved in innovation workshops to identify the entire range of existing problems and needs in an interdisciplinary manner and to compare them with the requirements and ideas of manufacturers ( Companies). Furthermore, innovation workshops can also evaluate ideas, e.g. finished idea concepts or prototypes are presented to the participants and discussed together (feasibility analysis) and, ideally, can be further developed. The functions and design options of innovation workshops are extensive. Companies can organise workshops of this type on their own or find support from various experts in the field of innovation management:
- State and private universities and chairs with a focus on innovation management/research (e.g. Institute for Innovation Research at Kiel University)
- Consulting companies
- Research and innovation networks innovation clusters (compare list of clusters and organisations in the box on the right)
- Scientific research and innovation societies
- Idea management platforms: Digital idea platforms can ensure a continuous exchange of knowledge and experience. Such tools aim to promote creativity and the inventiveness of one’s employees or relevant customers and users. Most of the tools cover the functions of capturing, controlling and communicating and evaluating ideas. Furthermore, the tools can be adapted to the requirements of the company. The aim of idea management tools is not only to collect and select suitable suggestions for improvement or new ideas but also to strengthen internal innovation processes and the company’s long-term success by realising sustainable innovation potential. Both Germany and Denmark have a variety of providers:
User feedback in general is also described here.