Solution Framework – The Sixth Step in the Innovation Process


Careful evaluation of each innovation concept is critical to finding out which concepts ones are the most promising and actually worth pursuing. The strengths and weaknesses of each concept need to be weighed against a set of defined criteria deemed important to the project. This step of the innovation process is about assessing concepts, combining them, and constructing rationales and stories for why they should be pursued. The mindsets revolve around mixing concepts into viable solutions and also making judgments about which concepts and combinations of concepts bring the most value. During the Frame Solutions step, the most useful mindsets include:

Conceiving holistic solutions

The team shifts focus from the parts to the whole. The team thinks about how individual concepts might be combined to form systems or collections of complementary offerings. The value of the whole system as opposed to individual concepts needs to be explored. The team talks through different possible configurations and evaluates which systems of concepts are optimal for the given context.

Conceiving options

The innovation team pays special attention to the space in between concepts and the relationships or connections that tie them together. The team identifies similarities between concepts, thinks of them as cohesive groups that may ultimately become concept options to consider for further refinement. The objective is to form a rich set of options, with each option being a specific combination based on complementary relationships that fit well within the context and actually meet the needs of the projected market.

Making value judgments

The team thinks about the important measures for evaluation and considers the pros and cons in light of these criteria. The key is to identify conditions that have the most bearing on the given situation and taking the time to judge how the different solutions align with these conditions. In this way, the relative benefits of each solution can be calibrated and analyzed accordingly and the most optimal solution can be conceived.

Envisioning scenarios

The team creates stories about the future by translating system level solutions into narratives that can help others understand how the different components will work together. Envisioning the future is most successfully imagined through visualizations expressed in diagrams, comic strips, animations, videos and similar media. The stories that the innovation team develops should be different for different audiences like clients, outside experts, users and potential investors. Thinking about what to emphasize in the stories for different audiences is useful for making the solutions work for them.

Structuring solutions

The innovation team gathers all the ideas and creates organizing structures. The organizing structure could be a matrix in which solutions are in one dimension and a number of their attributes are on another. This enables the team to look at the interactions between both sides of the matrix and begin to see how similar attributes pull solutions together. The organizing structure could also be in the form of catalogs, in which solutions are classified under categories just as books organized in libraries. Another way to imagine solutions being organized is in relational databases, where browsing, searching, sorting, and other interactive sessions are possible. The integrated structure of the solutions is at the core of this mindset and becomes a basis for further actions in the innovation process including prototyping, detailing, strategizing, storytelling, and implementing.

Staying in the correct mindsets during the Solution Framing phase of the innovation process brings all of the pieces together from the previous steps and prepares the team and the project for the final step – Realizing the Offering.

Scott Severns is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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