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Becoming Future Proof: Our 5-Stage Innovation Methodology

At Future Proof, we thrive on reimagining today’s status quo to develop tomorrow’s successful organizations. Our work is about unlocking untapped value and empowering our clients to anticipate and adjust to changing market demands and volatile operating environments. What is the secret to our approach? In this blog post, we unpack the nuts and bolts of our innovation methodology and share how Future Proof’s approach enables your organization to achieve its future ambitions.

Importance of Becoming Future Proof

Organizations in the 21st century operate in a VUCA world. A world full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Disruptive technologies, globalized competition, and external factors, such as political uncertainty and pandemics, drive industry changes at a dizzying rate. As we have seen with the recent COVID-19 outbreak, today’s economy can radically change in just a few short weeks, and a resilient company must be able to pivot on a moment’s notice.

In addition to these rapid changes, there is also a more gradual change in attitude and mindset. The attitude towards the consumer society and climate change also signal the end of many traditional business models. Organizations must embrace sustainable practices that include environmental and social considerations into their strategy and operations. With mounting pressure from consumers and governments, business models must adapt or are destined to become outdated.

Viewing change as an opportunity

At Future Proof, we believe these changes do not need to be the cause of organizational anxiety. Businesses exist to address problems, and our current global challenges present a host of new issues and needs just waiting to be solved. Change, therefore, offers opportunities for new business models, increased profit margins, and unprecedented growth. For example, working towards the achievement of the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) has been estimated to generate up to $12 trillion USD in market opportunities.

But how can an organization successfully capitalize on the changing needs of the future? Over the years, Future Proof has developed a tried-and-true methodology as part of our Becoming Future Proof service to empower organizations to leverage change and create value for tomorrow’s customers.

Innovation as a Mindset

Driving innovation within organizations may seem like a ‘black box’ or an innate gift to an outsider. However, we firmly believe that innovation is a learned mindset rather than an elusive talent. At its core, Future Proof’s methodology for becoming Future Proof is about helping your organization take on this innovation mindset. Our proven approach has generated cutting-edge solutions, propositions and business models for clients across a wide range of industries. This includes designing novel personal insurance models and rethinking agile manufacturing processes for a diverse range of businesses. From start-ups to corporates. Regardless of sector, organizations realize that this mindset shift in becoming Future Proof is vital for their continued success.

Proven Approach for Becoming Future Proof

In our Becoming Future Proof work with our clients, we equip organizations to navigate and capitalize on change through our five-stage methodology. Our iterative approach is based on proven innovation techniques, including design thinking, lean start-up methods, and disruptive innovation theory, while also harnessing data-driven insights to produce evidence-based value propositions.

We think of our approach as ‘pressure-cooking’ innovation: we work fast, visually, and within a defined scope. Always in co-creation with you as client. By working quickly in small, time-bound batches, we help you rapidly identify viable value propositions and other transformational opportunities. This phased approach allows you to see tangible results on a defined problem area, demonstrating first-hand the value of our methods and facilitating greater buy-in for innovative transformation across your organization.

However, Future Proof’s methodology should not be seen as rigid or restricted to be applied by our innovation experts. We build your creative confidence by coaching you on how to apply our validated techniques across your organization. This includes our validated five-stage methodology, co-creation team structure, and our collaborative innovation tools. For the rest of this blog post, we will ‘pull back’ the proverbial curtain on our innovation methodology and explore how your organization can apply these techniques to becoming Future Proof.

Five-stage methodology to drive value creation

Future Proof’s five-stage methodology is the lynchpin of our approach to helping organizations to innovate. Our modular approach to innovation takes into account that you must still successfully run an organization while pivoting to new frontiers and business models. Each stage is output-driven, iterative, and time-bound: Stages 1 – 3 focus on understanding contextual changes and gauging future customer needs, while Stages 4 – 5 concentrate on validating new value propositions and business models that will exceed those needs.

 

  1. Define ambition:The first stage is centered on defining and embracing a clear and inspiring vision. This includes defining a shared purpose, internalizing vision across the organization, and establishing how you provide real value to customers. At the end of the Define stage, you decide the scope of your organization’s future ambition, directing the team’s energies towards a defined project to demonstrate value quickly.
  2. Explore the future: The second stage is centered on exploring customer behaviour, future market demands, and emerging trends and opportunities. Disruptive technologies, regulation risks, and available assets are also mapped out during this stage. Using data analytics and insights from talking directly to customers (through our customer discovery exercises), you investigate potential value you could offer tomorrow’s customers. At the end of the Explore stage, you will have charted promising directions to adapt to a shifting playing field.
  3. Design value: The third stage is about refining your design criteria and developing ideas on sustainable value creation. You learn to embrace divergent thinking – the process of generating a diverse array of ideas that challenge status quos and embrace the impossible. During this stage, you learn to source unconventional inspiration from outside your industry and how to provoke ideas and feedback from within your organization. You can utilize our idea management platform and customer discovery experiences to generate new ideas for value propositions and new business models. At the end of the Design stage, you converge on these options to select several propositions to test in the next stage.
  4. Discover the unknown: The fourth stage is focused on idea validation. You discover which ideas solve real problems for customers and whether these new propositions are economically feasible. This robust process of validation is more than throwing together a landing page or showing a few people a prototype. Instead, you take a rigorous approach to testing, iterating, and re-testing value propositions in a Future Proof Experimental Design Lab. At the end of the Discover stage, you will have one or more viable value propositions and/or business models to implement within your organization.
  5. Implement and Scale: The final stage concentrates on successfully implementing the validated value proposition or business model. You develop a business model delta map and implementation roadmap, with Future Proof advising on meaningful metrics to measure as you execute the new value proposition or business model. You learn how to seamlessly integrate new value propositions and evaluate their continued success. At the end of the Implement and Scale stage, you will not only have an executed new value proposition but also equipped ‘Future Proof ambassadors’ within the organization to drive and scale value creation.

Future-Proofing In Action

How do you create a shared organizational vision in which all employees contribute to and embrace? In 2018 Future Proof worked with a medium-sized Dutch firm, Kalfire Fireplaces, to answer this question during the Define stage. Future Proof set up a flexible framework to allow employees – from the customer service representatives to the cleaning staff – to contribute to the strategic direction of the company for each year. The framework is also agile, with regular check-ins to gauge progress and pivot on goals if needed. By using this flexible approach to shared planning, Kalfire Fireplaces has reported production gains and found that its employees are on average more motivated and committed.

Co-creation using interdisciplinary teams

The success of Future Proof’s above methodology relies on co-creation between our Strategy Designers and an interdisciplinary team from your organization. Before the start of the Design value stage, we assemble an innovation team representing a varied array of functions within the organization. We encourage representation from front-facing customer representatives to back-end analysts and supply chain experts. This interdisciplinary team produces a diversity of thought, promotes employee buy-in, and fosters creativity confidence across the organization.

We bring our experienced Strategic Designers to contribute their expertise in innovation, organizational transformation, digitalization, and industry analysis, thus providing the team with data-driven insights into disruptive technologies and trends. We also bring our Experiment Designers to pioneer creative ways to test and validate new products, services, and business models. These Future Proof team members are part of your organization’s innovation team, coaching and co-creating with you to unlock future value propositions and business models. Through this co-creation work, you leverage existing organizational knowledge while also benefiting from data-driven analyses and market insights from outside your organization.

Collaborative Innovation Tools

We use a combination of our own tools and well-established innovation canvases to foster collaboration in becoming a Future Proof organization. Our idea management platform offers your employees, including those not on the innovation team, the opportunity to contribute ideas and give constructive feedback on new value propositions. We also use popular innovation canvases, such as the vision canvas, the value proposition canvas, and the business model canvas. These tools provide a highly visual yet structured way to spark conversation and creativity among teams, while also developing alignment and employee buy-in.

 

 

What makes the Becoming Future Proof methodology unique?

 

We are well aware that there is a multitude of innovation agencies and methods on the market. So, what sets Future Proof apart?

Our approach to Becoming Future Proof is far more than a methodology. It is about a radical worldview shift. Unlike other innovation approaches, our methodology is designed to transform your organization’s mindset, rather than just implementing a one-time process. Your organizational mindset shifts from a company delivering a set product and/or service to an adaptable organization that produces value; value that is independent of any particular product or service. This shift in thinking is critical in responding to changing futures. Based on recent disruptions caused by COVID-19, automation, climate change, and political uncertainty, the relevance of becoming Future Proof is greater than ever.

How can my organization stay future proof?

After completing Future Proof’s Becoming Future Proof methodology, your innovation team can act as ‘Future Proof ambassadors’ within your organization to continue to drive and scale value for the future. Future Proof also offers a Staying Future Proof service to further equip your core organizational capacities to pivot and adapt to changing realities. This includes establishing partnerships to fuel sustainable growth, developing meaningful targets to motivate employees, and brand positioning that opens up previously untapped markets.

Want to learn more?

Has Future Proof’s approach for innovation piqued your interest? Before committing to time-consuming R&D projects or scheduling another dreaded strategic planning meeting, come join us for one of our Lunch and Learn sessions. At this free session, we will discuss how to develop feasible value propositions and how to deliver long-lasting value to your customers. Sign up for a Lunch and Learn event here.