What Can You Expect After A 12 Week Innovation Sprint?

Added on by Alexander Osterwalder.

With our Strategyzer Innovation Sprints, we help major companies go from ideation to early validation in 12 weeks. That's long enough to produce results (even in B2B) and short enough to put pressure on teams. One question that always comes up when we start: what can teams expect after 12 weeks?

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When CEOs, business units, product teams, or innovation accelerators come to us they first ask us where they will land after a 12 week Innovation Sprint. The answer of course depends on how much time they put into it. If a team has just 20% time a week to get out and test their business ideas, they will get results, though they won’t get extremely far. With 50%-100% time allocation, teams will generate a lot more solid evidence and insights. While that sounds obvious, we frequently see an unhealthy balance of outsized expectations combined with poor time allocation. Innovation is hard. It takes time!

To determine where you will land after 12 weeks you need to balance objectives, resources, and expectations. The more you put in, the more you get out. However, sometimes it makes sense to only put in 20% of your team’s time, because you can mobilize a lot of people, go broad, and do light and early idea testing.

Sometimes it makes sense to give teams a full 100%-time budget because they’re working on a breakthrough growth engine. There you obviously expect more. Make sure you align expectations and time allocation. Every single project that I’ve seen fail and not produce testing results was mainly because of a lack of time allocation.

Let’s break down what you can expect in two different scenarios. One with a relatively time-rich team. One with a time-strapped team.

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Scenario A - Full Innovation Sprint

Here’s what you can roughly expect from a team with 2-3 people, where at least one person spends 100% of their time on testing the business idea. The team will generate some really good evidence regarding desirability and have a good understanding of the market opportunity and risk. They can show if customers are interested in a solution or not; understand how a solution might look; and have some first insights regarding pricing and revenue streams. Furthermore, they will have a roadmap to test technology feasibility and execution risk.

Detailed Output:

1) Business Opportunity: Team can present a value proposition and business model with strong customer/market evidence and first Minimum Viable Products.

2) Strong: Evidence Supporting Market Opportunity and Reduction of Market Risk (desirability)

  • Evidence of the size and attractiveness of the market.

  • Deep customer understanding and evidence of jobs, pains, and gains that matter to customers (20-30 sophisticated "problem” interviews and survey(s) with storyboards and card sorting).

  • Good understanding of potential solution and evidence of which features matter to customers (maybe 10-20 pure “solution” interviews).

  • 2-3 Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) of varying levels of fidelity (“fake” product spec brochures, landing pages, paper MVPs, first prototypes depending on industry).

  • Substantial call-to-action testing (landing pages, email signups, simulated sales, signed memorandums of understanding, etc.).

3) Medium: Evidence Supporting Financial Opportunity & Cost Estimates (viability)

  • Evidence of customer willingness to pay (as part of a second wave of “solution” interviews).

  • Call-to-action tests and A/B tests specifically focused on willingness to pay and pricing (simulated sales, signed memorandums of understanding, etc.).

  • First cost estimates and potentially first costing evidence.

4) Light: Understanding of Technology and Execution Risk (feasibility):

  • First estimation of tech risk based on solution testing.

  • First estimation of execution risk based on solution testing.

  • Roadmap to test technology and execution risk.

5) Strong: Polished Results “Pitch" & Next steps

  • Slide deck with Value Proposition, Business Model, and supporting evidence.

  • Strong roadmap for further testing.

  • Clear budget estimate of future tests & MVPs.

  • Team Alignment Map to summarize all next steps & planning.

Scenario B - Innovation Sprint Lite

From a team of 2-3 people with a time allocation of 20% each you have to expect much less. However, this allocation of a tight time budget can be appropriate when you want to lightly shape, explore, and test a large number of ideas before selecting a few to further invest in. In this scenario, teams produce a first understanding of customer jobs, pains, and gains and their interest in a solution. Advanced teams will have a first understanding of customer willingness to pay and maybe even pricing.

Detailed Output:

1) Business Opportunity: Team can present a value proposition and business model with some first customer/market evidence.

2) Medium: Evidence Supporting Market Opportunity and Reduction of Market Risk (desirability)

  • Evidence of the size and attractiveness of the market.

  • Light customer understanding and first evidence of jobs, pains, and gains that matter to customers (approx. 8-12 "problem" interviews).

  • Light understanding of potential solution and first evidence of which features matter to customers (approx. 6-10 “solution” interviews).

  • Advanced teams will do their first call-to-action tests (landing pages, email signups, simulated sales, etc.).

  • Teams that push the time boundaries will work on light Minimum Viable Products (MVPs).

3) Medium: Evidence Supporting Financial Opportunity & Cost Estimates (viability)

  • First evidence of customer willingness to pay (potentially as part of 6-10 “solution” interviews).

  • Advanced teams will do their first pricing call-to-action tests or even A/B tests

  • First cost estimates.

  • Light validation of revenues and first profitability estimates (based on evidence, not just spreadsheets).

4) Planned: Estimation of Technology and Execution Risk (feasibility):

  • First estimation of tech risk based on solution testing.

  • First estimation of execution risk based on solution testing.

5) Results “Pitch" & Next steps

  • Slide deck with Value Proposition, Business Model, and supporting evidence.

  • Suggestions of what to test next.

  • Potentially a budget of estimate of future tests.

In a first Innovation Sprint, teams will focus mainly on market opportunity and risk, as well as financial opportunity. The technology and execution feasibility (can we build it?) should wait until your team produces strong market evidence.

One major consumer brand we worked with already had a substantial budget to invest in technology prototyping, but was smart enough to first heavily focus on testing desirability and viability. They understood that the technology underlying their business idea was so new that they could more wisely spend it with a better customer understanding. The team didn’t want to waste the first 12-week cycle on testing feasibility for features that might turn out useless. In a second Innovation Sprint they tackled technology prototyping. The company just launched their new product this year.

So ultimately what have we decreased through this sprint? We decrease market risk. What have we increased? The opportunity of potential revenue to be made. We’ve also decreased the financial risk and can avoid investing too much money into an early stage idea.