How to promote innovation in Start-Up's: 7 Tips for the Innovation Sandbox


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Text comes from: Lean Startup: Schnell, risikolos und erfolgreich Unternehmen gründen (2014) by Eric Ries, published by Münchener Verlagsgruppe (MVG), Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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The challenge is to create a mechanism that openly supports the autonomy of the innovation teams. A good remedy for this is the innovation sandbox.

How to promote innovation in Start-Up's: 7 Tips for the Innovation Sandbox


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Eric Ries 80Eric Ries has established the lean start-up method and made it popular.

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Why an innovation sandbox?

I recommend Company the establishment of an innovation sandbox that "fences" the applications and effects of the new innovation, but does not restrict the working methods of the innovation team.

This paves the way for a sustainable culture of innovation that is viable in the long run, when companies repeatedly feel threatened by their existence.

7 Tips for Introducing an Innovation Sandbox

How does setting up such an innovation sandbox now work really well in everyday business? 7 tips at a glance:

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  1. Each team is given the opportunity to experiment with split-run tests that only affect the sandbox elements of the product or service (if they consist of several modules) or clearly defined customer segments and territories (for a new product).
  2. Monitoring and control of the entire experiment should be the responsibility of a single team.
  3. No experiment should exceed the estimated timeframe (usually a few weeks for simple functional experiments and longer timers for disruptive innovations).
  4. No experiment should affect more than the number of customers (usually expressed as a percentage of the total company's main customer base).
  5. Each experiment should be evaluated on the basis of a single standardized report with five to ten (no longer) action-oriented parameters.
  6. Each team working in the sandbox and each product developed in it should use the same success parameters.
  7. Each team should be responsible during the experiment to track the key figures and customer responses (support requests, forum posts, etc.) and break this down if a disaster threatens.

How to “build” an innovation sandbox

But how does a company come to an innovation sandbox? At first, the sandbox can be small.

The scope can be measured by the products that the company offers. An online service could limit them to certain pages or the user flow (the “visitor guidance”).

The sandbox as a learning process

In retail, they could only be introduced in certain shops or geographic areas. Companies that want to bring a completely new product to the market could invest the shielded space around customers in certain segments.

In contrast to a concept or market test, customers in the sandbox are considered real, that is, the innovation team should try to establish a long-term relationship with them. Finally, among the participants in the experiments, early users could be found who have been looking after the milestones in the learning process long before the milestones are reached.

The function of the team leader

If possible, the innovation teams should be function-wise and have a clearly identifiable team leader. The team should be empowered to develop, market and use products or product features in the sandbox without prior permission.

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It should be required to report on the success or failure of the Sandbox activities, with the action-oriented indicators and the innovation audit as a standard. This approach can be beneficial even for teams that have never worked cross-functional.

First innovations

The first changes, for example in the price structure, often do not require a lot of technical effort, but a smooth coordination between different departments, such as design, marketing, customer service.

Such teams are more productive, as the long-term performance is measured by the ability to create customer benefit and not just work. Real experiments can thus be easily attributed to successes or failures because the parameters either approach the ideal line or do not move from the spot.

See if innovation is important

However, the teams immediately recognize whether they are correct with their assumptions about customer behavior. Through the use of uniform, uniform characteristics, the customer gradually spreads throughout the company.

Since the reports on the progress of the innovation team are based on the innovation balance (as described in the second part of the book), anyone can decrypt them anyway and derive the lessons contained therein on the power of action-oriented characteristics.

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Prevent sabotage

This effect should not be underestimated. Even if some want to outmaneuver the innovation team, they need to be more involved with the parameters and learning milestones. The sandbox also promotes fast iterations.

If employees have the opportunity to get involved in a project from beginning to end, work is done in small steps and the assessment is clear and not long in coming, they benefit from the feedback. You have the chance to act promptly and purposefully if you fail to move the numbers.

The power of small batch sizes

Consequently, they tend to reach an optimal solution more quickly, even if their ideas are not very good at first. Again, the power of the small batch sizes is manifested again.

Experts from the functional areas rooted in the waterfall or stage gate development process (with many fixed milestones) have been calibrated to work with extremely large batch or batch sizes.

Small experiments with great success

As a consequence, self-igniting ideas are stifled under the burden of wasteful activities. By reducing batch sizes, the Sand box allows the teams to make mistakes that do not cost The World, and learn more quickly.

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As we shall see, these small initial experiments can show whether a team has developed a functioning business model that can be reintroduced into the parent organization.

Conclusion: Innovation Sandbox - a useful tool

It turns out, therefore, that Innovation Sandbox, properly applied, actually encourages the joy of experimentation and innovation of employees.

But of course you have to pay attention to the observance of the most important rules, such as the parameters for measuring success. Only then are the results really meaningful.


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  1. Laura Bottoni

    Hurray, finally a post that gives me exactly the information I'm looking for. Thanks a lot for this!

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