What is IDDwhat and what value/benefit does it bring?

IDDwhat focus on critically and very structurally analyzing and establishing the current state of the innovation, in a way that is understandable and communicable. This will provide the foundation for future efforts and is a key starting point to enable efficient and hypotheses driven market analyzes.


“The problem is often that a potentially great idea gets lost in the starting pits due to a problem as simple as being able to communicate what the innovation is, what it does and what benefits it actually creates.


As common problem is when a poor innovation gets too much attention and investments, when very few have any insight or understanding into what the innovation really can deliver, what maturity it has and how it stacks up against existing competing solutions. These problems are addressed within IDDwhat, so that different innovations and ideas objectively can be compared to one another in a structured way. As a mean to both get everyone on the same page but mainly to enable easier and more efficient information transfer between technological state and market insight.

Key to remember: IDDwhat always reflect the current understanding depicted within only a few images and pages, as an innovation elevator speech, that will and must be altered and improved as market insights are further gained and hypotheses changed. Think of IDDwhat as an interface or a shopping window of all your findings and developments.

An objective, structured and aligned foundation of the key current aspects of the innovation.

A communicable brief of the innovation; what it is, what it does and what benefits it creates.

A fact based anchor from which market hypotheses and market analyses can be formulated and built upon.

A first translation of technical lingo and parameters into actual value creating business opportunities

Key activities and output created

At this stage most efforts are done by extracting the key data needed from innovation partners and secondary resources. Reaching out to get actual primary market insight, while always beneficial, is not crucial here. The template for IDDwhat mainly involves collecting all current data and then structuring and simplifying it so that all relevant, and only the relevant, information is included. This requires many iterations, often leading to the insight that the actual innovation is not what the inventors first thought it to be.

Learning process

The learning process consist of 6 general stages. These stages will present the key input activities and outputs created to capture the relevant aspects of the current state of the innovation.

A template is available for download here, and it is recommended to use this format for completing the learning process of IDDwhat.

Expected time: 20-40 hours

Download IDDwhat template

Step 1: What it is and what it does

The first step sounds very easy; state what your innovation is and what it does!

Though, our experience show us that getting this elementary component right is often very tricky and requires a lot of iterations.

Being able to tell what the innovation actually is in a way that is not only compelling and understandable to people within for example a specific research area requires an intellectual effort as well as many iterations.

Remember: The first 20-50 words that you use to describe your innovation is what most people will hear before deciding if it’s of interest or not. Framing this in a precise way that is understandable and captures the key aspects of the innovation is critical.


What is the key output of a description of the innovation?

Aim at developing a very short (maximum 50 words), clear and concise description of what the idea is and what it does (not how). Make it understandable for a person without specific domain knowledge. State the most important aspects, especially those that set the idea apart from existing or alternative solutions.

We often meet inventors or researchers, with deep understanding in a specific subject having a problem with framing the description. Narrowing the innovation [often stem from years of research] down to a single line requires focusing on some of the key aspects and not all; e.g. “Killing your darlings” and being able to focus on actual business value creating features is often a struggle.


How do you create a strong description?

Making the description appealing is often an iterative process, where the beneficial wording of the innovation need to be tested on external persons not as deeply involved in the subject as the researcher or inventor. The most common problem is that the description of the idea is too complex, using too much technical jargons. The key in the description is to only show what it is and what it does, never revealing how, which both could jeopardize IP and often is too complex to be of interest to most listeners.

To describe what the innovation is, you need to give an construct of what they are actually supposed to buy; A software, a device, an algorithm or material? Create a sense of tangibility to the idea. In the cases where the innovation is hard to name, e.g. there is lacking an existing narrative or context for this solution, then you need to frame the innovation as precise and tangible as possible. This is often the case when it comes to novel innovations [e.g. how could you frame “Online Dating” before this was a well known concept with a name].

Stating what the innovation does requires some insight into what the key benefits of the solution are and to whom they might be of interest. Keep in mind though that many target markets that could be served these benefits.


Elements of a strong description

  • Anyone can understand the description – test this on friends and family!
  • Gives a sense of tangibility to what they would actually buy
  • Does NOT reveal anything on how it works
  • Is short and Does NOT use technical jargons


Key insights needed



Step 2: Understanding the need of the innovation

An innovation need to solve a relevant problem. This sounds simple enough, still millions of Euros have and will be spent of developing solutions to problems that are either non-existing or very small in size and the needs of the buyers are changing. The key is to not match your solution to a fictional need, but rather let the need be the starting point and guide the development of the solution.


Define and refine hypothesis on need

In the beginning of a research project idea generation, a verified need might not be adressed, though it’s of importance to formulate a strong hypothesis on the need, who has it, how many they are and how important the problem is.

As actual first hand insights into the market is gained this hypothesis could be altered or completely changed, which should not be seen as a failure but rather a sign of structured development and sound risk mitigation. These are critical steps to ensure that the, often, costly tech development is aligned with market demands.

Key factors to consider and develop to state a clear Need:

What is the problem?

  • When is the problem experienced? How often?
  • How big is the problem? How spread is it [e.g. depth and width of problem]?
  • How acute is the problem? How valuable would a solution be?

Who has the problem?

  • Who has the need? Companies or consumers?
  • How many are they? Where are they?

Step 3: What benefits does your innovation provide?

This step aims at structuring and decomposing the innovation into the key value creating components. This is an intellectual exercise that aims to map out what the features are, what benefits they create and the actual value to the user.

The benefit of this exercise is to enable a critical view on which features are value creating and which are not, as well as quantifying the benefits and values created. As much as this is critical as an internal exercise to establish strong and weak spots, this is mainly to be viewed as the bottom-line of your innovation: What tangible benefits and valued are actually created to the customers?

Challanges includes building a sound MECE [Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive] mapping framework and to quantify the benefits/values that are created.

Please download the “IDDwhat-Current state template” to view framework.


Why is it important to understand your features and benefits?

A way of mitigating the risk of keeping too much focus on the technical development and features is to shift the focus to the benefits and values they create. Keep in mind: Customers do not buy features, they buy the benefits and values they create.

Identifying and clearly articulating the benefits created by your innovation has critical advantages both internally and externally [depicted above], that enable more focused efforts in business development.


Advantages of mapping benefits

Internal benefits

  • Forces a tech heavy research group to focus on the benefits and values created
  • Creates internal alignment on development; Which features need to be developed
  • Link combinations of tech features to the external environment

External benefits

  • Enables clear articulation of figures of merit, e.g. what parameters are key
  • Key performance factors can be benchmarked to competitors
  • Customers know what they would buy


Defining features, benefits and values

To enable efficient mapping of benefits and values, and also quantifying the output created, the components need to be defined.

Features are the specifics of the solution regarding what it does, how it’s made, how it functions, it’s material and overall structure. The features are objective in itself and are the key cost drivers in innovation development.

Benefits are the advantages that the features bring to the customer. The types of benefits can be many; Performance improvement [process speed, strength etc.], cost reduction, physical attributes [weight, volume etc.], environmental and social benefits [reduced fossil fuels, improved health etc.] and product life cycle benefits.

Values are the real values that are delivered to the customer. For a company this would be viewed as a business impact. Lowering costs or increasing revenue for example. For a consumer the values could be broader, and relate to the life values a consumer might have, e.g. spending more time with family etc.

When writing the features, benefits and value keep in mind to:

1. Avoid fuzzy words [e.g. “Good quality”, “Safe money” etc.] – statements must be very clear

2. Quantify benefits and values whenever possible!


Process of mapping

Mapping might sound simple but really takes a lot of effort to make the statements appealing, MECE and also proving the benefits that are stated. In the beginning of a project the benefits might be mostly built up by hypotheses, which is fine as long as these hypotheses are based on an identified real need and also are dependent on features which the inventor team might be able to deliver.

You can start the mapping either from benefits or features and build your way from there [very seldom you start from the values]. IF starting from the features, you start from the internal side [often tech heavy side] and identifying single and multiple features that create specific benefits that would be of value to the customer.

If starting from benefits [which is a recommended method], you start by identifying the key figures of merit in an industry or key benefits that are demanded from customers, and build your way back to the features that can deliver these benefits. Preferably you should have a quantitative number your aiming at providing with the features, and sometimes all features might not currently be in place.

We recommend you to do this in a group within a workshop-setting, preferably with some market insight already available.

Step 4: Is the innovation validated and what are the requirements for your solution to work?

These steps relates to both the credibility and adaptability of your innovation. In general these steps are incremental to the technological development, and it’s crucial that you already in the beginning of a project recognizes and plan for these steps.


Provide both proof and limitations of your innovation

Validation is about providing objective proof that your innovation actually does what you claim it does. The level and type of proof varies depending on industry , customer groups and legislation. A basic level of validation is needed for practically all new innovations. Often this validation consist of independent 3rd party validation tests, done by a recognized testing scheme or organization. In some cases a type of validation could be proof of concept tested in an operational environment at a test-site or test-customer.

Requirements is a statement of the context within which your solution need to be, to function as intended. This could relate to physical constraints [e.g. size, mounting needs, distances etc.], system needs [e.g. software or hardware needs], maintenance or performance requirements [e.g. granularity of input data etc.]. In reality many innovations might be superior on a lab-scale, but in real settings the solution can not function optimally. Identifying all of these factors are critical.


Validate your innovation


In IDDwhat – Current state you should state the level of current validation but also planned and required validations


Step 5: Measure how mature your innovation is

A point we’re trying to stress in all steps is to be objective and keeping statements clear and verifiable. One universal approach to communicate the maturity of a innovation is by using TRL and CRL.

TRL: Technology Readiness level, is a scale of 1-9 presenting the technology maturity level of an innovation; from idea to validated product in operational environment. This is an internationally well known term, although not being very granular it depicts the maturity in a relatively objective way.

CRL: Customer Readiness Level, is also a scale from 1-9 that is inspired by the more well known TRL-scale but focuses on the market maturity level of an innovation, e.g. How closely is the solution based on real market intelligence and demand?

Download TRL

Download CRL

Technology readiness level

Technology readiness level, originally developed by NASA, is an objective assessment of the maturity level of a specific technology or innovation. Maturity level ranges from 1-9, starting at a phase where only the basic principles of the technology has been observed and ending at having the solution in an actual operating environment.

The key benefits of TRL is that it enables consistent, uniform discussions of technical maturity across different types of technologies. For this to be an efficient tool objectivity is needed, especially when assessing the maturity of your own innovation.

Misleading and too optimistic rating will lead to trouble later on, for example when an outside stakeholder at some stage will expect the solution to be at the stated maturity level. Since accelerating the TRL-level is also the key cost driver in most innovation development projects. A sound, logical and risk mitigation planning is needed to ensure that there is an added value to increasing the TRL-level. In most cases this value consist of a market demand, which need to be investigated and developed in parallel to the technological advancements [e.g. investments].


Customer readiness level

Customer readiness level can be viewed as the counterbalance to TRL, focusing on measuring the maturity level of market and sales development of the innovation, e.g. To what degree is the solution validated among potential customers?

CRL has a starting point where the actual need the innovation addresses is only theoretical, ending at a CRL 9 where the product/solution is widely spread on the market. The CRL-scale is usable for critical evaluation of how well the need is actually founded in a real market interest. The benefit here is that, in comparison to TRL, acceleration of the first 5-6 steps does not require significant investments. CRL aims at investigating and verifying the need based on analyses, interviews and in many cases, where a prototype is needed, focuses investments to only create a Minimum Viable Product [key features requested by market].

CRL can be viewed as a structured way to ensure that revenue can be created from the investment costs associated with tech development [TRL-acceleration].

Step 6: Establish the IPR situation

This step will not in-depth go into this very broad area, nor will it provide any legal advice. Though; we want to give an overview of situationswhere further investigation and insights into the IPR situation is needed.


Foreground and background IPR

The status of intellectual property right can be viewed from different perspectives depending on the innovation project setup. If you are a start-up company with one or a fewer owners with IP managed in the company, then IP within the Current state should mainly focus on the external perspective; What IPR are held currently, and/or what potential intellectual assets could be protected going forward as well as investigating the freedom to operate.

If you, on the other hand, are running or starting a research or up-scaling project with many different stakeholders involved, there might be a need to investigate and state all the background IPR [Intellectual Property Rights owned by or licensed to a Project Partner at the start of the Project] going into the project, as well as foreground IPR; questions regarding the IPR produced within the project.

Broad definition of IPR:

The right of a person or company to exclusively use its own ideas, plans, and other intangible assets without competition, at least for a certain period of time.

Examples of intellectual property include copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets.

The idea behind the protection of intellectual property is to encourage innovation
without fear that a competitor may steal the idea and/or take credit for it.

Step 7: What are your innovations key competing solutions?

This step aims to identify a comprehensive  list of competing solutions and articulating the advantages that your solution offer compared to the competition. This process  involves a thorough  search of different sources with the purpose to identify brand- and functional competitors at an early stage in the innovation process.

The benefit of this exercise is to in an early stage of the process identify and build a matrix, which provide an overview of the participants  in the market segment and your solutions unique position/advantage in the market.

Challenges include; identifying all relevant competing solutions and competitors which may not initially be obvious. Articulating an objective comparison and defining advantages and disadvantages are crucial to specify the unique benefits and value of your solution.


Identifying the competing solutions and competitors

Identifying the innovation’s market position are best performed by comparing the features, functions and value with competing solutions. Customers buys services/products which are the best solution to their need and add most perceived value. Identify solutions in the market that are “best -in-class”, most popular technology and most likely alternative solutions.

A compressive overview of the competing solutions provides valuable insight of the unique aspects of your innovation and indications of the competitiveness of the market. Positioning your solution in the competitive market will identify the competitive advantage and enable more focused efforts in business development to value adding functions and activities.


Sources of competitor information


Identify and articulate competitive advantages and disadvantages

With a comprehensive and exhausting list of all competing solutions and competitors, the next step is to profile them to identify your advantage and potential. This will illustrate your potential position in the market and USP (Unique selling point). Competitive advantages may be either cost, differentiation or marketing advantages. Consider the competitions business model and product attributes/features.


Advantages and disadvantages example

Advantages: Be honest and objective! Don’t exaggerate and be prepared to prove potential statements and claims.

Try to quantify and make the advantage measurable to substantialize your proposed value for the potential customers. Avoid using vague claims such as “better” and ”less” without quantifying the claim.

Disadvantages: Be honest and objective! Identify all disadvantages against competing solutions. This will provide a comprehensive picture of the competitive landscape and give an indication of the potential demand from the market and chance of success.

Advantages examples

  • Third-party test indicate improved performance of approximately 20% .
  • Less material usage decreases direct cost with 1/5.
  • Improved safety functions decreases accident risk.
  • Less material usage decrease environmental impact [CO2] with estimated 25 %.
  • Decrease FTE with estimated 0,5.

Disadvantages examples

  • No existing sales distribution network
  • Higher end-user estimated pricing
  • High barriers of entry, due to heavy capital investments.
  • No brand awareness


Compile data into a competitive matrix

Organizing the collected information enable you to understand how to effectively compete and against which players. Utilizing the contrast of functions and attributes will highlight superior areas of competitiveness which illustrate the tendency of the competitive advantages. Function matrix: Compile the list of competitors and evaluate against each defined feature. Is only for internal use.

Benefit matrix: Compile the list of competitors and evaluate against each defined benefit of the solution. Is only for internal use.

Competitive advantage matrix: Summarize all identified competitor information into an matrix with all relevant disadvantages and advantages.

Step 8: How should you view “Current state”

Completing “IDDwhat – current state” takes approximately 20-40 hours, but could also take much longer depending on case complexity, prior knowledges and granularity level needed.

Key to remember is that getting the “Current state” perfect the first time is not critical. What is urgent is to leverage the facts gathered in IDDwhat to start gaining real market insights, which most likely will alter and further improve the current state-template. 


You now have the foundation and it’s time to start gaining real insights

Current state gathers the most critical information on the solution, and compiles it into understandable and easily communicable material necessary to start asking the market the right questions.

Current state is needed to start building hypotheses on potential markets, and is also a first ‘sales’-brief which can be presented to potential users, partners and other validators without disclosing critical information. 

IDDwhat Key recommendations

Below we have presented some key recommendations and tip's on how to best conduct the steps and analyses presented in the process section. These are learning we have found from conducting numerous IDDwhat over the years.

Capture and align

Be sure to capture all relevant expertise within your research group, company or consortium. It's of great value to align the current state with all key stakeholders, as it 1. ensures that all knowledge is included and 2. it ensures alignment for future efforts and target markets selection. - And: capture relevant stakeholder. It’s not feasible to let everybody have a say in the actual content of the current state, so ensure that the number of participants is manageable.

Focus the analyses

Keep the current state brief, focused and to the point. In some cases it might make sense to make several current state analyses if there is a potential to develop multiple different products, with different benefits and needs, out of the same innovation

It will take time

A really strong IDDwhat current state takes time. Most time-consuming are the competitor mapping, feature-benefit analyses and description phase. Do not expect it to be finished in one day, and if you do, then the foundation for future efforts might be very weak.

Nothing is holy: Iterate

The first draft need to be solid and aligned, though new findings will and should be included in the Current state. Remember; the current state is the easily communicable external window displaying the current running hypothesis of the solution.

Quiz - Test your knowledge

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