FORTH Method: A Creative Way To Master The Start Of Your Innovation

The FORTH innovation method connects day-to-day business reality with outside the box creativity.

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
— Steve Jobs

Starting with innovation is for many businesses a struggle to master. A survey lead by Deloitte in 2015 states that 96% of businesses consider that innovation is part of the top five strategic priorities. However, only a quarter of all companies are effective at the start of their innovation. Why is that? How can companies overcome this obstacle in their process to succeed the launch of their idea?

For many, the answer is a methodology called FORTH. This tool structures the chaotic start of innovation by creating 3 to 5 product or service concepts and fostering a culture for innovation in a delay of 20 weeks. By connecting day-to-day business reality with outside the box creativity, you can get amazing results! Founder of the method is the Dutch author Gijs van Wulfen.

FORTH is an acronym found in the first letter of each of the 5 stages: Full Steam Ahead, Observe & Learn, Raise Ideas, Test Ideas and Homecoming. These names probably don’t mean a thing to you.  Let’s look a little but closer to these stages!

  • Full Stem Ahead: you never start an innovative project without being fully prepared. Determine the direction and the criteria that you want you’re innovative concept to comply with. Establish your ideal team and invite people from every department to participate in the process.
  • Observe & learn: Get to know the customer and his behaviour. Ask yourself the most important questions: What are the trends among potential target groups? If we want to innovate in this direction, from whom can we learn? This stage takes place during 6 weeks and at the end your team gains relevant new customer insight and new innovation opportunities.
  • Raise ideas: At the heart of the methodology, this stage consists of a two-day product brainstorming session and a concept improvement workshop. New ideas are brought to the table and developed into concepts. Work with a time box and strict deadlines. Establish your objective in terms of ideas wanted at the end of the session. Usually, 750 ideas are converged into 40 tangible ideas that lead up to 12 concrete concepts.
  • Test ideas: How attractive are the 12 new product or service concepts? The strength of these concepts are checked among potential customers and improved. At the end of this phase, select the best 3 to 5 new concepts to be worked out.
  • Homecoming: In this final step, the team returns with attractive new product or service concepts and enough support to fill the innovation pipeline. Present these strong concepts to the top management and make use of the specific expertise of others from within the organization.

The following outline illustrates the benefits for your organisation of implementing this method in your daily routine.