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tions around that trend.
Another key to success is to initially ignore any
constraints such as cost, existing technology, human
resources, and so forth. Just focus on the best ideas.
It can also be helpful to look at companies in an
entirely different industry, including their issues, how
they innovate, and ideas they have implemented.
Determine whether those could be applicable in some
way to your situation.
It’s important to keep in mind that in this stage, the
involvement of everyone in your enterprise—from
floor associates to the executive suite—is critical. The
associates on the front lines are the ones who experience the benefits and shortcomings of your company’s
processes every day. Many of these workers have
great ideas that too often have no meaningful outlet.
Including them in ideation will not only bring out
effective ideas but can also be inspirational for them
as they see their contributions taken seriously. Again,
it is important to ensure titles do not mean anything
in this phase.
Your brainstorming sessions will net a significant
number of valid innovation ideas, which can later be
prioritized against the matrix that was established in
the governance stage. Priority for development should
be given to the ideas with the most potential for both
achieving benefit for your customer and meeting your
target business outcomes while also appearing to be
the most feasible. Next, you’ll present the results of
the prioritization analysis to the governance committee to determine which ideas should proceed
to the next stage. The prioritization matrix will be
customized to every organization, but any matrix
should include the key measures established in your
Now it’s time to move to the testing stage.
4. RAPID PROTOTYPING: 90-day cycles with
b Define the prototype project’s goals and timeline
b Set stakeholder expectations
b Develop and test your solution in basic form
After setting up governance, educating the stakeholders, and bringing them through the process of
ideation and research, it will be time to prototype
one or more projects. At this point, you must define
the project goals and create realistic expectations for
the stakeholders. Remind them that the prototype
process is designed to use limited resources wisely for
determining what is possible. Firmly set expectations
for success so that all can recognize success when it
happens. Remind your team that an innovation failure is not a flaw, but rather an acceptable outcome.
It is during this phase that you will define “what will
With rapid prototyping, success or failure is deter-
mined within 90 days to demonstrate that you won’t
waste your stakeholders’ valuable resources. The
deadline also helps your team to work quickly and
efficiently to find improvements to existing processes
and new ways to tackle tasks.
This method of prototyping is similar to the Agile
methodology that has brought major improvements
to software development. First proposed in 2001,
the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development” 4
states that it values “individuals and interactions over
processes and tools, working software over compre-
hensive documentation, customer collaboration over
contract negotiation, [and] responding to change over
following a plan.”
This last point is critical, because it has been used to
establish an intensely iterative process in which short-
term results are used to assess whether to continue,
change, or end a development program, rather than
following a rigid, long-term plan that is written before
there is sufficient information to predict its outcome.
The Agile model emphasizes failing fast to succeed
often. When applied to supply chain management, it
enables lightning-fast decision making.
Agile has particular value in the innovation of
supply chain services because supply chains operate
on relatively low margins, creating the imperative for
maximum efficiency in all aspects. With rapid prototyping, the risk is limited to a 90-day development
period, rather than one that might last a year or more
with difficult-to-predict results.
At the conclusion of the prototype stage, a decision
will be made by the governance committee to either
kill the project or rapidly deploy it in the market.
There are benefits to both outcomes. The successes
you experience will quickly engender stronger support
and participation across all stakeholders, and the
failures will deliver deep learning about the process
and ways to improve. Post-prototype assessment will
help you to develop a good perspective on the value
of rapid prototyping and lessons learned.
The path to faster success
A customer example from the organization I lead,
Kenco Innovation Labs, will give you an idea of how
these recommendations can be applied in real-life
In one case, we were asked to help a customer
address the problem of excessive retail chargebacks.
We went through the discovery process, interviewing
and mapping the experiences of several of our sites.
We developed the customer persona based on our