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6 ways to turn ideas into products that ship

As we talk about innovation on our blog, it's important to note that innovation is not a goal unto itself. It's a crucial ingredient to ultimately turn ideas into products and services that your customers will buy.

This is a core plank we focus our clients on when we work with them on their innovation strategies. So for our next blog post in our B2B Innovation series, I thought I'd break out six of the most important best practices for creating an innovation strategy that will help you ship products your customers want, need, and will buy.

1. Align innovation to your business strategy. Map your innovation and product decision-making processes to your business strategy. This ensures product development efforts are supporting your company’s goals. And since ideas from customers don't always correlate with company strategy, this ensures that ideas -- even good ones -- that are strategically misaligned are not inappropriately prioritized and acted upon.

2. Center your innovation process around your product managers. Product managers are naturally suited to be the hub of your innovation strategy because they have their ear to the ground when it comes to customer needs and wants, as well as company technological capabilities.

3. Gather customer feedback in a way that works for you and your customers. Your customers want to quickly and easily tell you what they need from your products. You want to efficiently capture, prioritize, and act upon this. An idea management system enables you to collect and evaluate ideas in this structured fashion. Look for a system that lets you gather feedback from customers as well as product managers; sift out the noise; and organize, rate, and prioritize ideas from one location.
4. Conduct customer focus groups and surveys. Make your customers a partner in your product development process by collecting their input through focus groups and surveys. They enable you to probe ideas and uncover insights that are crucial for understanding the impetus behind them, which helps you refine and prioritize ideas.

5. Build testable versions. Give your customers beta and test versions of new features and products to try out as you're developing them. This lets you uncover bugs and make modifications early in development, saving onerous and costly development rework later on.

6. Use Agile/Scrum techniques. These are iterative, incremental development frameworks that can enable you to more easily bring new features to market quickly and to make adjustments during the development process based on evolving customer input.

Innovation cannot happen in a vacuum. It requires customer and product development feedback throughout the product development process. The better you collaborate and engage with your customers, the greater opportunity you'll have to collect and execute on more refined and clearer requests that address their pain points and align with your business objectives.

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