The Six Week Innovation Challenge (SWICH) is a six week period of experimentation which is based on Lean Startup principles and tools of Alexander Osterwalder. At the core of the approach is a small, multidisciplinary Innovation Team which includes the Innovator. The objective of the experiment is to obtain real market feedback to validate either a value hypothesis, a feasibility hypothesis or both. Each SWICH leads to a conclusion of these hypotheses: true, false or inconclusive. This result comes with a proposed new hypothesis to be researched in the next SWICH. The results of the SWICH are presented in the Pitch Week, after which a decision is made by the Continuous Innovation Board whether to continue or stop the experiment.
The Start of the SWICH
The Six Week Innovation Challenge looks as follows (Osterwalder and Pigneur, 2014, p. 198):
During the entire SWICH, Innovation Teams are supported by an Innovation Coach. He or she will guard the process, stimulate the ” build, measure, learn” cycle and challenge the Innovation Team in the validation of the learnings.
In the first day of the SWICH, the Innovation Team formulates hypotheses, designs corresponding tests and makes an overall planning to execute theses tests in the upcoming weeks. One of the Innovation Coaches is responsible for arranging this day and he/she will also be the facilitator of this workshop. The input for this workshop is the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Design which were drawn up in the Validation Phase. During this workshop, the Innovation Team identifies the riskiest beliefs that must be true in order for the innovation to succeed. These beliefs are called ‘leap-of-faith assumptions’.
Any innovation has two particular leap-of-faith assumptions: the value and the growth hypothesis. The value hypothesis regards whether the customer will value the product or service once they start using it. The growth hypothesis involves whether the product or service is able to grow once it has some customers (Ries, 2011). These leap-of-faith assumptions together with the biggest idea killers should be tested first.
The next step is to prioritize all hypotheses. After the prioritization, corresponding tests are designed for the top hypotheses. Test cards can be used to design tests and criteria for validation. A template of a test card can be found on the Strategyzer Website. One test can be used to validate more than one hypothesis. After tests have been created, these are also prioritized and placed on a progress board. Any progress board can be used, a template can be found on the Strategyzer Website. Teams are now able to start the experiment by performing the tests.
Performing Tests to Obtain Real Market Feedback
In the time period of six weeks, the Innovation Team will run the tests by applying the “build, measure, learn” cycle (Ries, 2011). Firstly, the Innovation Team will build a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP is the smallest version of the idea that delivers customer value and which the Innovation Team can bring to end users to collect customer feedback. The goal is to quickly turn an idea into something real, even if it is imperfect, in order to learn (Ries, 2011). The MVP can take any form. In the first experiment mockups, frameworks or sketches are often used to test the problem-solution fit. This fit occurs when there is evidence that customers care about certain jobs, pains, and gains (Osterwalder and Pigneur, 2014) that are part of the product/service offering. When the first experiment turns out to be successful, prototypes and first MVPs are created to further test the product-market fit and business-model fit. We talk about a product-market fit, when customers are willing to spend money on the product/service. The business-model fit occurs when there is evidence that the innovation has the right business model that has the potential to deliver scalable business value.
Validation and Lessons Learned
At the end of the SWICH, the Innovation Team discusses their findings by looking at the data obtained from the performed tests. The Innovation Team does this in a “Validation and lessons learned” workshop, which is facilitated again by an Innovation Coach. The objective of the workshop is to validate or reject the hypotheses and propose appropriate next steps. A template of a learning card can be found on the Strategyzer Website.
The outcome of each test can be one of three things:
- The hypothesis was proven right: a specific belief about the innovation is validated with real market feedback. The next step is to determine what the next biggest fail factor is and to formulate new hypotheses based on theses assumptions.
- The hypothesis was proven wrong: a specific belief about the innovation turns out not to be true. This means that the Innovation Team has to adapt the idea based on these learnings.
- The outcome of the test was inconclusive and further tests are necessary. A new test for this hypothesis must be created in order to obtain the required data for validation.
Based upon the aggregated insights from all the tests performed in the SWICH, the Innovation Team formulates an advice on how to proceed with the innovation. This advice always includes a new set of hypotheses for the next experiment or next steps for the Scaling Up Phase. This advice is then presented to the Continuous Innovation Board in the Pitch Week, where a decision is made on if and how to proceed with the innovation.
Whenever an idea is deemed ready for the Experimentation Phase, its Innovator is granted resources and budget for two Six Week Innovation Challenges. The Continuous Innovation Board and Innovation Coaches retain the right to stop the Experimentation Phase after one SWICH when the hypothesis proves invalid or when the future perspective of the innovation is deemed poor. In any other case, if the initial two SWICHs have been successful, resources for a third SWICH can be granted as well to the Innovator.
The cadence of innovation is six weeks for specific reasons:
- One dedicated day for a period of six weeks is enough for a team to make concrete hypotheses and test them
- Three times six weeks gives enough time to elaborate on lessons learned for the Innovation Team and the Innovation Coaches
- Three times six weeks is the maximum amount of time that business can miss resources without a structural measure or change
Therefore, the cadence looks as follows:
- Six Week Innovation Challenge (week 1-6)
- Pitch week (week 6)
- Six Week Innovation Challenge (week 7-12)
- Pitch week (week 12)
- Six Week Innovation Challenge (week 13-18)
- Pitch week (week 18)
In these six weeks, the Innovation Team comes together at least one day a week to work on the innovation and perform the tests. The rest of the week they are able to perform their normal work activities. It is very important that the team schedules a day together, it is not recommended to schedule days individually. The strength of the SWICH is to dedicate time together to work on the experiment.
- Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup. New York: Crown Business.
- Osterwalder, A. and Papadakos, T. (2014). Value Proposition Design. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
- Osterwalder, A. and Pigneur, Y. (2013). Business Model Generation. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.