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The Innovation Blog

The "SNIFF" test - criteria for early innovation decision making

Posted by David Culton on Sep 27, 2010 11:41:00 AM

Innovation clients frequently ask us how to make better decisions when pursuing breakthrough innovation.  Decision making in pursuit of breakthrough and transformational innovation is significantly different that which is for sustaining or incremental innovation (where frames of reference, past benchmarks, etc. exist).  There are five key decision points along the journey.  At each point, beliefs, assumptions, SWAGS, etc. will get tighter, and more useful.  

Today I'm going to address the second decision point.  Once you have had full range of beginning ideas, and selected a manageable number to fully describe and turn in concept outlines, how should you decide which ones to take into a more rigorous process of creating "Business Visions"?  The creation of Business Visions involves significantly more thought, time and effort.  It involves an escalation of resource commitment, and therefore is deserving of some thoughtful selections from within the existing range of possibilities.  And it is early in the game.  So what criteria to use?

SNIFF test

The Creative Realities "SNIFF" Test©.

Five criteria should be considered at this stage.  All five require the use of judgment, rather than any real metrics.  Because for "breakthrough" innovation, there is no frame of reference, no empirical data, etc.  Here are the criteria to consider, we recommend using a 5 point scale to make judgmental evaluations of each:

Strategy:  How well does this fit with our strategy and further our Vision?

Need: How well does this address an important consumer/customer need?

Impact: Opportunity Size. Have we envisioned a sizable enough market with money to spend? 

Feasibility:  Can it be done technically within our timeframe?

Feel:  Most important -- What does your “Educated Gut” say?

As you consider these criteria, it is easy to simply select those few that have the highest average ratings on these criteria.  But before you do, look at what the ratings are telling you.  Used properly, they can identify the key areas of strength and weakness.  Before you make your decision, consider each criteria and ask yourself "How could I make this concept stronger in this criteria?  And how would that affect the other criteria?  Problem-solve your way to the strongest form of the idea before you make the decisions.  Then make them in an informed manner.

Take a "SNIFF".  What does it tell you?

SNIFF Test ©2010 Creative Realities, Inc.

Topics: Innovation, creative problem solving, breakthrough innovation, leadership, strategic innovation, Strategic Goals, criteria for innovation, decision-making, defensible SWAG, approximate thinking, developmental thinking, implementation, execution, criteria

Meet Art Fry, innovationist and inventor of Post-it® notes

Posted by David Culton on Sep 5, 2010 9:07:00 AM

fry main 1 190
If you've been around innovation for any amount of time, you have probably heard, and maybe told, some story about the invention of Post-it® notes.  I've used the story as an example about perseverance in innovation; the importance of passion for an idea; about leveraging an accidental discovery; about all sorts of things.  Yet I've never met Art Fry and have only repeated stories I've heard.  So I was very excited when a friend of mine (Farrell Calabrese) from a client of ours (Eastman Chemical) sent me a link to their innovation lab website.  They have put together interviews, stories, videos, etc. from over 20 designers and innovators.  Interesting information on design, on sustainability, and in this case, the story of Post-it® notes from the man who invented them.  I found it to be a very interesting interview about a range of topics and issues related to innovation.  I hope you all have a chance to read it and get the real story on one of the great inventions of our time.  You can find it at http://www.innovationlab.eastman.com/InnovationLab/Insights/Example/Art_Fry.htm

Topics: breakthrough innovation, approximate thinking, connection making, developmental thinking