Innovation is often glamorized by the bookends of sourcing promising ideas like colorful post-it notes or highlighting the final polished product we see in the store. Stories of the unglamorous hard work required to bridge the gap between “I have an idea” to its realization are often not shared. Generative AI will undoubtedly play an enabling role throughout the innovation process by making it easier for people with new ideas to get off to a fast start. We will show you how generative AI can accelerate idea development and help get you across the finish line with less effort and in record time.
Whether you are an employee with a great idea or an aspiring entrepreneur, you will be confronted with many similar challenges when it comes to innovation. You are likely to face the inevitable resistance to change, a lack of time, resources, collaborators, data, or expertise needed to push ahead. It is enough to stop you from starting but the world needs your imagination, and with technical advances that complement your innate creativity, there has never been a better time to develop winning ideas.
To clarify your idea and guarantee others recognize its potential, we recommend utilizing the CO-STAR framework. It is a simple, yet effective way to develop a compelling case for your idea, what we call a value proposition. CO-STAR helps you to identify and validate the key elements of your value proposition and articulate them concisely. This will assist you in connecting with your target audience (users, buyers, managers, partners, etc.) and persuade them to choose your solution over the alternatives. CO-STAR was developed in Silicon Valley and has been used by idea champions like yourself in over 41 countries around the world.
Before we show you how to turbocharge your ideas with CO-STAR and generative AI, let’s clarify the six areas you must develop to ensure your idea is indeed a valuable one. CO-STAR is an acronym that stands for:
- Customer: Who is the target customer for your idea and what are their unmet needs or problems?
- Opportunity: What is the size of the problem and the full potential of addressing the customer’s unmet needs?
- Solution: What is your idea and how does it solve the unmet needs/problems that your target customer is facing?
- Team: Who needs to be on your team (roles, skills, experience) to ensure your solution’s success?
- Advantage: What is the competitive advantage your solution has over the alternatives?
- Results: What are the expected results your solution will deliver? How will your target customer as well as your sponsor benefit?
The 6 questions work together to create a powerful narrative for your idea. Note, your Solution must address the Customer’s unmet needs at a level that produces Results significantly better than other alternatives or the status quo for it to be considered valuable. Answer the CO-STAR questions, quantify the answers to strengthen your case, and iterate your value proposition based on what you learn through this Q&A process until you are confident your idea is desirable, feasible, and viable.
About Generative Research and Refinement
Recently, there has been an avalanche of generative artificial intelligence tools, such as ChatGPT, Bard, Bing, etc., that can be used to create new content, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, and videos. While generative AI offers lots of possibilities to support innovation, we will focus on its ability to help with researching your ideas, refining your value proposition, and writing a draft pitch. By posing a question or well-crafted prompt, it will gather information from the internet and present it to you in a concise and compelling manner. This application will help you get smart fast about your idea while creating content you can leverage.
Case Study: Sarah’s Sound Effects Company’s Disposable Hearing Aids
To get started, let’s suppose you are an employee at Sarah’s Sound Effects Company. They make traditional hearing aids and other auditory enhancements but are looking for new sources of revenue and novel product ideas to help grow their business. You are invited to participate in an innovation crowdsourcing campaign with the rest of the employees using IdeaScale software to capture and manage the ideas. You have a great idea for producing a disposable hearing aid and submit your idea to your company’s innovation management platform. The campaign sponsor encourages you to develop it further because it seems to offer great promise. Here is where CO-STAR and Generative AI can be a great asset!
Using Generative AI to Refine your Idea into a Value Proposition
We recommend starting by providing your generative AI of choice with the proper context for CO-STAR and your idea. For our AI, we chose Google’s Bard and started the chat with the prompt 1: Use the CO-STAR framework from the book “Creating Value with CO-STAR” by Laszlo Gyorffy and Lisa Friedman to generate a value proposition for disposable hearing aids (insert your idea here). The framework focuses on six key elements: the Customer and their unmet needs, the size and potential of the Opportunity, a description of the Solution being proposed, the Team needed to develop the solution, the Advantages the solution has over alternatives, and the estimated Results for customers and sponsors from implementing the solution. We inserted our idea of “disposable hearing aids for the low-income and at-risk populations” into the prompt and within seconds we had a draft value proposition.
Customer: The target customers for this value proposition are low-income and at-risk populations who suffer from hearing impairment. These individuals often face barriers in accessing affordable and reliable hearing aids, which negatively impact their quality of life, social interactions, and overall well-being. Their unmet needs include a cost-effective, accessible, and user-friendly solution that can enhance their hearing capabilities without compromising on quality and performance.
Opportunity: The size and potential of the opportunity are significant as there is a large underserved market of low-income and at-risk individuals with hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world’s population experiences disabling hearing loss. This presents a considerable market demand for a disposable hearing aid solution that addresses the financial and accessibility challenges faced by this demographic.
Solution: Our proposed solution is a range of high-quality, disposable hearing aids specifically designed for low-income and at-risk populations. These hearing aids will be affordable, easy to use, and available through various distribution channels to ensure accessibility to the target customers. The devices will be pre-fitted with standard settings to reduce the need for professional adjustments, making them convenient for immediate use.
Team: Our team consists of experts in audiology, medical device engineering, and business development. We also collaborate with nonprofit organizations and hearing health professionals to ensure that our disposable hearing aids meet the unique needs of our target customers and are aligned with their preferences and requirements.
- Affordability: Our disposable hearing aids are priced at a fraction of the cost of traditional hearing aids, making them accessible to low-income populations who couldn’t afford hearing aids otherwise.
- Accessibility: The hearing aids will be distributed through various channels, including community health centers, outreach programs, and online platforms, ensuring they reach at-risk populations in both urban and rural areas.
- User-Friendly: The pre-fitted settings of our hearing aids eliminate the need for complex adjustments, allowing users to experience improved hearing instantly without the requirement of professional assistance.
- Disposability: The disposable nature of the hearing aids reduces maintenance and service costs, making them a hassle-free and convenient option for users.
- Improved Quality of Life: Users will experience enhanced hearing capabilities, leading to better communication, social interactions, and overall well-being.
- Financial Relief: Affordable hearing aids eliminate the burden of expensive upfront costs, making it easier for low-income individuals to access hearing solutions.
For Sponsors and Partners:
- Social Impact: Sponsors and partners can contribute to a meaningful cause by providing assistance to an underserved population, positively impacting the lives of many.
- Positive Brand Image: By supporting this initiative, sponsors and partners will be associated with a socially responsible project, enhancing their reputation and goodwill.
You may need to rephrase the generative AI prompt a few times to get a CO-STAR value proposition to your liking but producing a sound first draft in less than 15 seconds is a tremendous start. Review the draft and see what new insights emerge. Generative AI can surprise you with its novel content, some of which may turn out to be advantageous from an idea as well as a pitch development perspective. Validate the data. You don’t want to be working with faulty information or misleading others. With just a few minor refinements you can cut and paste your value proposition into an email or create a presentation deck for colleagues, sponsors, or potential investors interested in supporting your idea.
It has been our experience, like a solid resume, having a solid first draft value proposition will get you invited to the hiring meeting, but not the job. To get people to act in your favor and commit their time, energy, and resources to help realize your idea requires a more detailed and comprehensive value proposition. We recommend using generative AI to drill down into each of the CO-STAR letters to add greater depth, insight, and analysis to your current thinking while also exploring new possibilities. We cover this topic and provide examples in part 2 of our article.
Generative AI can help you create messages that are more likely to appeal to your target audience. It can also help you improve your value proposition so that it is more relevant to their interests. When using generative AI, it is important to remember that it is a tool, not a replacement for your own creativity and research. Be sure to review the information that the AI generates and make sure that it is accurate and relevant. There are many different generative AI tools available, so experiment with different ones to find one that works best for you. Be aware of the potential risks of using generative AI, such as data privacy, security, bias, and intellectual property.
If you are like the aspiring innovator at Sarah’s Sound Effects, what it used to take to properly research, quantify, and compose a compelling value proposition for your potentially brilliant idea, can now be done in a few hours. Generative tools have made it much easier to harness your creativity and subject matter expertise to generate persuasive pitches and gain approval, support, and funding. Embrace your inner innovator, leverage AI, and propel your ideas and career toward new and exciting possibilities.
In Part II of this article, we will walk through perfecting your value proposition by researching each CO-STAR component.