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Innovation Evaluation Framework: The Seven Cs Together

By Jeffrey Phillips

Innovation is a key corporate initiative in most firms, yet is often unsuccessful. While it is relatively easy to generate ideas, most firms lack processes to evaluate ideas and move them on to new product or service development.

Another difficulty many firms face is determining which ideas will have market acceptance and viability. Evaluation criteria are often generated on a case by case basis with little consistency or knowledge of the market or opportunity. Additionally, innovation does not have its own standard evaluation metrics, so often a traditional business case or other discrete metrics are used to evaluate ideas. Since ideas often do not have the supporting data, research or intelligence that an existing product or service has, they are frequently ruled out.

Seven components (seven c’s) contribute to innovation success: choice/control, convenience, community, completeness, compatibility, coolness/communication and customer’s cost.

  1. Choice/control: Does the innovation offer the user more choice and control than what is currently available?Does the innovation improve the process of choosing, or provide more information than was available previously?Does that perception of choice also offer more control, or the sense of control? Is it possible to demonstrate or quantify the difference in choice and control over the existing solution?
  2. Convenience: Does the idea provide more convenience to the user, enough to make them change or reinforce their existing behavior?Does the idea significantly reduce effort, cut costs or reduce training over existing offerings? Is it easy to try out the offering, to “try before you buy” to reduce the risks of switching?
  3. Community:Does a broad market exist with an unmet or possibly unknown need?Can the idea be easily communicated and create a user community that will create critical mass and word of mouth advertising?
  4. Compatibility:Does the idea align tightly to existing technology and reinforce existing compatibility standards or does the concept create a new standard?What is the company’s strategic intent in regards to compatibility?
  5. Completeness:What will it take to make the idea “complete” from a user’s perspective?Does the idea need further investigation to evaluate the documentation, training, channels, partners or other “whole product” requirements?
  6. Coolness:Does the idea create an “aha” moment for the consumer?Does the product or service create a sense of identity, meaning or experience for the consumer?
  7. Cost: Has the business considered the cost to the consumer and created a model that suggests the cost for the consumer is correct? Does the cost for the consumer incorporate the costs to find and investigate the solution, the costs necessary to switch from an existing product or service, and the cost to acquire the solution?
Table 1: Features and Benefits of the Seven Cs




Choice/Control When a new product or service offers more choice and/or control to a customer, it helps overcome the risk of change. Consumers are more willing to try the innovation and adopt it more readily.
Convenience A new innovation that provides the user more convenience will experience greater acceptance. Increased convenience lowers the risk of change and the learning required to use the new product or service effectively.
Community A new product or service can create a community of enthusiastic supporters who provide a network of support and excellent word of mouth marketing. These loyal consumers demonstrate the product is valuable and become a marketing outlet or sponsor of the solution.
Completeness Frequently a new product or service is really only a new technical capability and not a complete solution.A complete solution makes it easier for a user to use and to learn. Consumers are drawn to the completeness of the solution, the simplicity and lack of missing components.
Compatibility If an innovation is compatible with existing standards, it gains value through a network effect. If the innovation disrupts or sets a new compatibility standard, it can create an entirely new standard Compatibility extends the value of existing products and services and makes them all more valuable.Disruption of a standard can create a completely new standard.
Coolness Innovations can attract new customers because it appears “cool” to its consumers. People identify with the exciting, interesting solution and adopt the solution more quickly.
Customer’s Cost The offering is built based on the understanding of the consumer’s cost to acquire and use the innovation rather than the producer’s margin requirements. The value proposition for the solution is clear and easily understandable.

This is a qualifying process for new ideas as they are maturing in a company’s innovation process. Not every idea has to address all of the “c” factors, but each idea should solve several of these factors to be considered by an organization.

Table 2:Innovation Successes
Product Type Choice/Control Convenience Community Compatible Completeness Coolness
Disposable diapers Physical product Offered more choice and more control Diapers can be boughtat any grocery store. Use and throw away. Yes – worked as well as cloth diapers. Disposables required less work, were packaged and easily purchased at any store.
iPod Physical product With iTunes, simplified selection and choice. Yes –combined with iTunes, more convenient to find tunes, more convenient to >download. Built an entirely new community. No – created a new standard. First to offer a complete solution – player, tunes and a community. Yes
Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” program Service Offers choices to improve saving, and provides consumers control over how frequently they save. Very convenient – part of every purchase process. Compatible with existing debit card and purchase process. Program includes a website and other information to make it easy for the consumer. Cool because it seems like the “right thing to do.”
Dell Business model More choice and control than buying off the rack. Very convenient – buy anytime from any web browser. Did not change any of the technology but recognized a new method of purchasing – first over the phone or by catalog, then over the Internet. Offers an easy approach for purchase and presents options like printers and other peripherals to complete the “whole product.”

A look at some innovation failures sees where the new products failed on the scale of “c’s.”

Table 3: Notable Innovation Failures
Product Choice/Control Convenience Community Compatible Completeness Coolness
Apple Newton Yes – the first real PDA (personal digital assistant). Difficult to use – little supporting software. Not compatible with existing technologies. Few peripherals or software applications.
Segway Yes Few places to use it. Not compatible with existing modes of transportation. No Not cool – especially after adoption by law enforcement.
Euro Disney Yes – choice between U.S. and Europe. More convenient for Europeans. No – Disney is surrounded by other attractions. Euro Disney stands alone. Not really – Parisians do not care for it and many Europeans go to Florida for reasons other than Disney.

These seven factors, used to evaluate an idea early in the process, can contribute to the success of a new product or service by improving adoption. The factors can work alone, but also in combination (see the figure below), all adding to the potential of a new product’s success or failure.


True innovation requires a more expansive evaluation than a traditional business case and needs to be considered with features and attributes that are more qualitative and driven more by emotion than logic.The seven factors described above all help to reduce a company’s risk and build trust for the new product or service.

About the Author:

Jeffrey Phillips is a vice president with OVO and responsible for marketing and for leading innovation projects with OVO’s clients. Mr. Phillips has extensive experience working in the innovation space, with a wide range of Fortune 500 firms. He has published articles for Harvard Management Update, DigitAll Magazine, Pure Insight and blogs about innovation at Innovate on Purpose. Contact Jeffrey Phillips at jphillips (at)