As the inventor and co-founder of Startups@NSN, I was one of the drivers behind a successful incubation program within a large (70K) and complex multinational. We coached global employees into generating hundreds of ideas and converted them into 6 prototypes in 2 months. After customer feedback, 4 commercial products were launched in months of which one won a prestigious international innovation award.
Having gone through the whole process, if given the chance to do it again, I would make some substantial changes.
We overestimated a couple of aspects.
1) Employees have very innovative ideas
2) Employees understand customer’s problems
3) Employees can let go of unproductive products
Several employee ideas were very innovative but the majority were just small changes to existing products. Most corporate employees are good at incremental innovations but have a hard time imagining innovative products on top of unknown technology innovations like Cloud Computing (jan 2010) or M2M (2011).
Also using employees as a substitute for understanding customer needs is not a great idea. Nothing beats real customer contact.
Finally people fall in love with their prototypes too easily. They are blinded and can not understand that their brainchild is an ugly duck instead of a beautiful swan.
So how can you do it better?
My first suggestion would be NOT to start with a technology but to start with the customer. Identifying some real important customer problems before identifying solutions is key.
Secondly, using employee but also external ideas (e.g. Via a competition) to generate minimum viable product requirements on paper should be done before building any prototype. The solution definitions should be reviewed by customers to get early feedback. In addition to solutions also other elements should be evaluated, e.g. Price, customer channel, unique value proposition, customer acquisition costs, etc. A good framework to use is the Lean Canvas.
Only after the customers have validate your lean canvas and minimum valuable product design should you go and build a prototype or even better the minimum valuable product. Launching the product in months and only adding features after the initial product has been successful should lower your initial costs and risk of failure.