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Playing a critical role in innovations are the under-used actions of conducting research

Research has always played a critically significant role in the innovation management pipeline. Brands (name of company) invest in new products, processes, and services to delight their customers, solve customer problems, acquire new customers, find new revenue streams, improve their bottom line, and to increase their competitive advantage by undertaking research and implementing innovations.

Research helps decision makers understand the underlying problems customers are experiencing. Research also helps the team view the opportunities and problems from various perspectives so they can separate the causes from the symptoms and make decisions on which problems to solve.

Research often involves customer feedback loops which help the team know when they are on a good thing or whether it is time to pivot. Too often people shy away from research and say let’s focus on innovation implementation. The problem with deleting research from the innovation process is that you might find yourself solving the wrong problem or solving a problem that no one cares about. Most solutions will fail, and often at the heart of failure is a lack of market, brand, and consumer research.

Research (1995-2018) shows that venture capital funded 47% of brands prior to their initial public offerings and 56% of them are still in business demonstrating the power of venture capital to fuelling market ready research and innovation (Lerner and Nanda 2020). Some of the more well-known brands received funding prior to their initial public offerings include Apple, Amazon, and Alibaba. As the world is progressively becoming more uncertain, it seems venture capital funding is flowing into research and innovation. With uncertainty increasing the value of research and innovation as important skills of the future are increasing.

Previously, much of money for research and innovation came from within the business. Today, we are seeing a slow increase in some angel investors and venture capitalists funding research and innovation, even before the idea is market ready.

Research and innovation investment is the highest in discovery industries like oil, gas, mining, and agriculture, as we search for renewable options that reduce harm to people, the planet, waterways, and our tourism experiences, as we search for more authentic tourism experiences that are environmentally friendly and highlight the pristine natural environment.

Investments into clean energy research and innovation is steadily increasing as we look for better ways to power our planet in ways that reverse the impacts on climate change and support net zero carbon emission plans. Covid slowed some of the investment opportunities into clean and renewable energies, as money went into health research and innovation, so we could understand the virus, improve Covid-variant diagnostics, find high-quality vaccines, and more effective treatments.

Research and innovation are how we advance as humans.

Overarchingly research and innovation are key to human betterment.

In the finance, transport, entrepreneurial and manufacturing industries most of the research and innovation is business and market led. With electric vehicle usage on the increase, money garnered by governments through fuel excise revenues to fund road infrastructure is diminishing. This will impact on how we view and fund the roads of the future. Covid has changed our infrastructure needs as people move from cities to regional areas, asking of our governments to improve regional and rural roads, transport, health, and infrastructure.

There is a belief that governments won’t be the solution. Instead, venture capitalists and entrepreneurial ventures with new and bold ideas will be the answer. Venture capitalists are looking for the next big idea. They are more risk averse and willing to fund people who have done their homework. For instance, the next batch of brand owners who have spent their time researching and found potential solutions on new ways to address the interrelated problems of roads, health, waste, energy, tourism, and transport.

There is a call for research and innovation to find localised solutions with smaller footprints that are globally scalable. There is already a call for the use of micro-recycling plants and a move away from larger plants, as we consider how we address waste and the impacts of energy, roads, health, and transport on the planet.

Service experience markets like health, wellness, entertainment, tourism, IT, and education may also benefit from localised in-person solutions or global digital solutions that are a result of research and innovation.

Covid has fast tracked how we think about health and wellbeing and the importance of wellbeing in our lives. Covid has fast-tracked in-person local solution thinking. Covid has also fast-tracked digital global thinking. Covid has fast-tracked the need for solutions to human problems like health, tourism, waste, energy, transport, agriculture, finance, education, manufacturing, shopping, and hospitality.

The thinking, research, innovation, and solutions will come from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are willing to invest time, energy, and effort in research to innovate and develop tomorrow’s solutions for today’s problems.

Leaders you are the solution

It is time to fast-track research and innovation into your everyday business world. Consider human-focused research and innovation processes like Design Thinking and the 4DLX-Grow Framework to use as guides in upskilling your workforce in the research and innovation skills needed to solve problems in an ever changing and uncertain world.

The upside of Design Thinking and 4DLX-Grow frameworks is that they put human beings at the forefront of research into problems and research into innovative solutions the idea of research and innovation is for human betterment.

In the Discover phase, the research identifies all of the relevant stakeholders, hearing the diverse views of relevant stakeholders so that a better understanding of the problem occurs. Decision makers identify the way forward on the basis of research. The research provides the evidence to move the innovation along through the pipeline.

This way, when designing solutions in the third phase of the 4DLX-Grow framework, the team conduct research to ensure the potential solutions are what the target audience desire. The research provides evidence that the ideas are addressing an urgent and heart-felt problem that people are willing to pay with time, energy, effort, and money. The research moves the innovation pipeline along. The research provides evidence that the innovation is going to be impactful.

In the fourth phase of the 4DLX-Grow framework the team conduct research with the relevant stakeholders to find the best way to implement the validated impactful ideas from the previous phase. The research provides evidence the idea has merit and people are willing to expend time, energy, effort, and money. Research provides evidence on the best ways to communicate the innovation more broadly and ongoing research tweaks the idea further through the use of stakeholder research loops.

If you ever hear the cry of act first or don’t worry about the research when undertaking innovation, then if you follow this advice, you will miss all of the wonderful opportunities to engage with stakeholders, seek their opinions, and develop innovation that is impactful and something for human betterment. Remember garbage in-garbage out.

Innovation doesn’t occur in isolation. Innovation occurs by engaging with others through research action and implementation of validated ideas.

Innovation and research matter if we are to lift the bar on innovation, and move forward in impactful ways that saves our planet and our people.

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