Inform Your Product Development with Innovation Roadmaps

Map with red pushpins.
To get where you want to go, know where you need to go to get there.

Product roadmaps are powerful tools to get the team organized and to get a new product launched. However, they can also be used for the conceptualization of the product itself. Innovation roadmaps use the product roadmap technique to drive innovation strategy, and they’re powerful tools regardless of your industry.

Why A Roadmap?

Innovation is about creativity, but it only works when that creativity is focused. Whether you have a small innovation committee or a huge crowdsourcing campaign, you’ll find yourself with a lot of energy that you’ll need to harness, or it’ll disperse in all different directions. A roadmap allows you to focus the momentum from early stages and drive it through to an actual product. This is particularly important because after the burst of creativity is where the hard work comes in, and it’s difficult to ask people to commit their time and energy toward a vague goal or no goal at all, especially when they have other responsibilities.

The Road To Innovation

Just like you don’t take out a map without having an idea of where you want to go, you need to decide what the overall goal of your innovation roadmap will be. What kind of product do you want to produce? What market does it serve? How long should it take to get there? You’ll keep returning to this step and revising your results as you go along, and that’s part of the process. As you learn more and incorporate new information, it’ll change where you want to go, even if only slightly.

Next, look at what you have to get there, and what might either help or hinder the process. These overall strategic issues should be considered the roads and their condition you’ll have to travel on; if the straight shot to your goal is a potholed mess full of traffic, you’ll have to find a new way around.

Group of three people looking at paper map on a car hood.
You’re all going to the same place, but not everybody’s taking the right route.

Once that’s in place, you’ll need to get everyone on board. If you’ve ever taken a trip where people argue over where to stop for food and whether to take the scenic route or get there faster, you know that getting everyone to agree is important for any journey, literal or figurative. Be flexible and thoughtful during this process, as there will likely be many stakeholders.

Then, make sure everybody has a copy of the map and get going. Make checking in and other forms of updates part of the milestones as you go forward, and make sure that the door’s open for people to check in if there’s any news they need to share.

Finally, when you get where you need to go, or close to it, plan for your next trip, taking the lessons you’ve learned with you. Knowledge compounds, and whether your roadmap was successful or not, that knowledge will help you design better roadmaps as you go forward.

Remember, innovation roadmaps are no replacement for drive, creativity, and ambition. They’re just guides to help drive, creativity, and ambition go into something useful and effective. However, you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going, and a roadmap will help you find your way. To learn more, join our newsletter today. 

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