Zero-ing in on Stage Zero with the help of a Delphi Panel

Zero-ing in on Stage Zero with a Delphi panel can help ensure that your company doesn’t kill a big opportunity early.

How can you keep a new idea — the combination of a technology and a consumer need — from being killed prematurely?  This usually starts with an assessment of the idea.  Companies receive new ideas from many sources – internal and external.  Companies are always scouting for new ideas with many coming from the outside in the form of a technology.  To assess the value of a new-to-the-company or new-to-the-world technology requires expertise.  Some companies have advanced development teams made up of several qualified individuals and some just have one individual charged with the important work of technology assessment.

Companies that do it themselves must often make a concerted effort to manage the ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome.  In this regard, there is benefit from having a systematic, repeatable process for evaluating new technologies that includes efforts to capture potential consumer value from an assessment of the technology and the market.  The challenge here can be inability of internal resources to imagine the range of potential consumer applications.  Some companies have found an effective solution in matching internal resources with outside subject-matter experts in a simple process that uses a Delphi panel of experts for the consumer needs opportunity component of the market assessment.

A technology assessment at this early stage is a high-level assessment of risk and feasibility to determine the value proposition of a technology for a company. It is optimal to be able to use internal resources (managed for the ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome) so that the technology review can effectively assess fit with corporate development strategy and intellectual property.

A market assessment at this initial stage is a high-level assessment of consumer potential.  The market assessment involves two components – market trends assessment and consumer needs opportunity assessment.

Standardized industry reports from external resources such as trade associations, government and research companies, combined with internal data from competitive intelligence can be used to develop a sense of the size of the market.  This can be as easy as a phone call to your corporate marketing research department.

If your market research department cannot provide insights into consumer emerging and new needs then a short cut – a Delphi panel of experts –can be used.  The Delphi panel is also a way to manage internal bias. A Delphi panel is made up of diverse, external expert resources, qualified to bring value to the task of assessing the consumer product opportunity for a specific technology. The task for the internal stakeholder leader is to align the Delphi panel with the internal technology review.

The Delphi panel will work best if provided with a format for recording their initial insights.  The panel after receiving a composite of every member’s initial insights would then do a second review.  The challenge of the Gate 1 review is to prevent an idea with potential from being dismissed prematurely.  Although the output of Stage Zero is still largely opinion-based, it can at least be informed by a Delphi panel of outside experts which corrects for internal bias.

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