Turn frogs to princes: No magic required

Use hybrid teams & on-demand talent to create great software.

As they say, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. Innovation works the same way; to create valuable new ideas, the best approach is to make a lot of attempts from different perspectives.

With software giving your competition new ways to eat your lunch, every company feels the pressure to innovate. Unfortunately, too many have no effective way to create company-changing digital solutions.

Some companies invest in digital labs, and give them the freedom to build prototypes with advanced technologies, but those prototypes rarely get out of the lab. Other companies outsource innovation to integrators and strategy consultants, but those consultants often have innovation challenges of their own.

The theory of frog-kissing, applied: For one government agency, Gigster harnessed the power of on-demand teams to generate application concepts that could help residents respond to natural disasters. Gigster sourced 10 teams, each with a product manager and a designer or a full stack engineer. Each team worked for one month to create a proof of concept that was then presented to the agency. The creativity and range of options explored was literally 10 times what they would have gotten with a traditional approach.

True innovation doesn’t need magic, but it does call for cultural change across the entire business. In the phrase “digital transformation”, the real challenge is the word “transformation.” Digital technology is just the context. In our experience, enterprise innovation happens when a company is able to create hybrid teams that blend in-house business and technical skills with on-demand global talent.

In significant innovation projects, a common mistake is putting all your eggs in one basket and launching a Big Bang project with lofty ambitions, even loftier budgets, and a paralyzing fear of failure. Critical flaws with Big Bang innovation projects include:

  • No exploration: Experimentation is the key to innovation. Running multiple experiments from different perspectives is the best way to innovate your way to value.
  • Risk aversion: Nothing kills creativity quite as quickly as fear. Big projects fail to innovate because they minimize the downside instead of asking “How high is up?”
  • Hierarchical thinking: Big teams come with multiple layers of leadership and cumbersome decision making, both of which tend to stifle innovation.
  • Wrong skills: Creative ideas require creative thinkers. Also, projects that plan to leverage advanced technologies like machine learning must include experts who know what is possible. These skills are often difficult to find in-house.

Compare all these problems to early stage innovation, where small is beautiful. To accelerate enterprise innovation, implement a customer-driven ideation process that creates as many ideas as possible, then rapidly narrows those ideas down based on customer feedback. Key actions include:

  • Put the customer at the center: Start by agreeing that the only thing that matters is the impact your project has on the target customer or user of the digital project.
  • Swing away: Get as many “at bats” with end users as possible to provoke an interesting response.
  • Build a 10-5-2-1 funnel: Find a way to create at least ten approaches before you start to narrow down your options. Use focus groups, wireframes and PowerPoint to simulate those initial ideas, then cut them down to five ideas based on customer feedback. Work a little more on those five ideas and then cut them down to two Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), then use customer feedback to pick the winner. In other words, go broad before you go deep.

This is a great approach, but it takes the best people to make it work. And where do you find them? The best innovation teams are distributed, blending in-house business and technical skills with on-demand creative and expert resources. These teams include hard-to-find capabilities like:

  • Product managers: Many companies have project management skills, but lack truly customer-centric product managers.
  • Designers: To drive the early stages of innovation projects, it’s critical to enlist a wide variety of talented creative people.
  • AI specialists (machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing): AI-enabled capabilities must be built into the ideation stages, not bolted on at the end.

At Gigster, we have helped companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 leaders deliver over 1,100 custom software projects. Our proven approach to accelerating innovation starts with ideation workshops, moves to crowdsourced concepts, then enables the rapid delivery of MVP and release candidates to prove out and extend successful concepts.

Gigster works with hybrid teams that blend your in-house skills with our on-demand global talent network. Gigster’s Innovation Management platform enables us to leverage distributed teams to deliver custom software with 75% lower risk and 50% higher productivity.

Chris Keene
As CEO, Chris drives Gigster’s vision to de-risk digital innovation. Chris was previously VP Cloud for VMware, where he led the $400 million Pivotal spinout. Chris also founded and took public Persistence Software (NASDAQ:PRSW)

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