Four-step Innovation Process And Why It Matters For Business Innovation

The four-step innovation process is a simple tool that businesses can use to drive consistent innovation. The four-step innovation process was created by David Weiss and Claude Legrand as a means of encouraging sustainable innovation within an organization. The process helps businesses solve complex problems with creative ideas instead of relying on low-impact, quick-fix solutions.

Understanding the four-step innovation process

The four-step innovation process was created by David Weiss and Claude Legrand as a means of encouraging sustainable innovation within an organization.

More specifically, the process helps businesses solve complex problems with creative ideas instead of relying on low-impact, quick-fix solutions.

To that end, the four-step innovation process ensures that creative ideas have actual value in a business setting by delivering an appreciable return on investment.

The primary advantage of the process is that needs are defined early on. This allows businesses the freedom to be creative while also working toward their goals in a focused manner.

The four steps of the innovation process

To allow creativity and focused goal-setting to coexist, a business should follow these steps:

1 – Framework development/problem identification

The initial step encourages employees to determine how they might solve the problem of innovation by considering its history.

In other words, has anyone tried to innovate before? If so, were they successful? Why or why not?

Then, consider the context of the problem. How does it relate to a broader project or strategy? Are there projects with similar contexts?

Innovation is more cost-effective when something new can be sold to a market that a business already operates in.

When defining the problem, phrase it as a question. For example, “How will the business reduce customer wait times by 45 minutes?”

The benefits of this method are two-fold. Questions help define an objective in addition to a benchmark for success.

Once the problem has been defined, it’s time to identify boundaries.

These include budgetary and time-related constraints and the approval of a decision-maker who will ultimately decide the fate of a project going forward.

2 – Develop a concept/solution

Here, ideas generated in step one are subject to an intensive analysis using:

Consumer research

In the form of a buyer persona or a specific target audience.

What are their needs and how many needs are unfulfilled?

Compare notes with information collated during the problem definition phase.

Market research

What is the total addressable market (TAM)?

A total addressable market or TAM is the available market for a product or service. That is a metric usually leveraged by startups to understand the business potential of an industry. Typically, a large addressable market is appealing to venture capitalists willing to back startups with extensive growth potential.

Analysis of the competition

It’s possible to identify the key players that overlap with a company’s business model with a competitor analysis. This overlapping can be analyzed in terms of key customers, technologies, distribution, and financial models. When all those elements are analyzed, it is possible to map all the facets of competition for a tech business model to understand better where a business stands in the marketplace and its possible future developments.

Including the potential for entering a market through differentiation.

Risk and feasibility studies

The value/risk matrix is a tool used to assess the complexity of a category of goods or services based on value and risk. The value/risk matrix is a relatively simple 2×2 matrix, with risk on the x-axis and value on the y-axis. Each of the four quadrants should be partitioned according to the designated scoring system. If each factor is ranked out of 100 for value and risk, then a low-risk initiative will score between 0 and 50 and a high-risk initiative between 50 and 100. Businesses that need more flexibility or precision may choose to use a 3×3 matrix with low, medium, and high designations.

Are there any barriers or risks to innovation such as laws, regulations, or patents?

In the idea generation process, avoid discounting ideas entirely – no matter how unrealistic they may sound.

3 – Testing and refinement

While testing and refining the idea, it’s important to gather iterative feedback from customers if possible.

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Prototype feedback from test users in particular is sacrosanct and should never be neglected.

Once a business is satisfied that an innovation is ready for market, strategies for its implementation, distribution, and marketing should be devised.

4 – Market release

Releasing an innovative product to market requires that strategies identified in the previous step are activated.

A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.

This ensures that the product is physically available in sufficient quantities or locations. Sales staff should also be suitably versed the consumer benefits of the product.

As the product becomes established, the innovation process continues through regular evaluation of customer feedback and quantitative market analysis.

A business should never rest on its laurels and assume that product innovation ends at a fixed point in time.

To increase profit margins or maintain market share, businesses should also use the 4 Ps of marketing.

The notion of a marketing mix was first mentioned by E. Jerome McCarthy in his 1960 book Basic Marketing, A Managerial Approach. McCarthy’s marketing mix was limited to product, price, place, and promotion – otherwise known as the 4 Ps of marketing. The 7 Ps of marketing is a model incorporating seven elements into the ideal marketing mix. Indeed, researchers Mary Jo Bitner and Bernard H. Booms added a further three elements to the original model: people, processes, and physical evidence. 

Key takeaways

  • The four-step innovation process gives businesses a framework with which to navigate the uncertainty, risk, and complexity of innovation.
  • By identifying the problems associated with innovation early, the four-step innovation process allows businesses the freedom to work creatively and intentionally toward their goals.
  • Unsurprisingly, the four-step innovation process consists of four steps. The first step involves defining the problem in a broader market context. In the following steps, concepts are formulated and tested through market research and iterative feedback before market release.

What are the 4 steps of innovation?

Connected Business Model Innovation Frameworks

FourWeekMBA Business Model Framework

business model is a framework for finding a systematic way to unlock long-term value for an organization while delivering value to customers and capturing value through monetization strategies. A business model is a holistic framework to understand, design, and test your business assumptions in the marketplace.

VTDF Tech Business Model Framework

A tech business model is made of four main components: value model (value propositions, missionvision), technological model (R&D management), distribution model (sales and marketing organizational structure), and financial model (revenue modeling, cost structure, profitability and cash generation/management). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build a solid tech business model.

Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas is a framework proposed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur in Busines Model Generation enabling the design of business models through nine building blocks comprising: key partners, key activities, value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, critical resources, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.

Lean Startup Canvas

The lean startup canvas is an adaptation by Ash Maurya of the business model canvas by Alexander Osterwalder, which adds a layer that focuses on problems, solutions, key metrics, unfair advantage based, and a unique value proposition. Thus, starting from mastering the problem rather than the solution.

Blitzscaling Canvas

The Blitzscaling business model canvas is a model based on the concept of Blitzscaling, which is a particular process of massive growth under uncertainty, and that prioritizes speed over efficiency and focuses on market domination to create a first-scaler advantage in a scenario of uncertainty.

Business Model Wheel

business model wheel provides a structured approach to defining a business model. Each model wheel is broken down into three core components: offering, monetization, and sustainability. Each component in turn contributes to a total of eight areas that make up an ideal business model.

Business Model Innovation Framework

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

3C Business Model Analysis

The 3C Analysis Business Model was developed by Japanese business strategist Kenichi Ohmae. A 3C Model is a marketing tool that focuses on customers, competitors, and the company. At the intersection of these three variables lies an effective marketing strategy to gain a potential competitive advantage and build a lasting company.

Main Guides:

Scroll to Top