Forth Innovation Method

Starting innovation is for many a struggle to master. Studies show that only a quarter of all organisations are effective at the start of innovation. You might recognize some of the struggles in practice:

  • “Our short-term mindset rules.”
  • “Our innovation process is unorganized. It’s chaos.”
  • “We cannot change our habits within the company.”
  • “We struggle to get inside the head of our customers.”
  • “There is no support for innovation among my colleagues.”

The innovation methodology

We like to help you with a structured innovation approach to start innovation effectively, which combines both design thinking, creativity and business reality. The innovation methodology is called FORTH – an acronym found in the first letter of each of the 5 steps: Full Steam Ahead, Observe & Learn, Raise Ideas, Test Ideas and Homecoming. The FORTH innovation methodology structures the chaotic start of innovation, creates 3-5 mini new business cases and fosters a culture for innovation in an expedition of 20 weeks. The deliverables of this innovation expedition are 3-5 mini new business cases for innovative concepts, which fit the ‘in the box’ reality of your organization.

Implemented by organisations worldwide

The FORTH method is implemented by organizations all over the world. Both in the profit sector, like 3M (USA), Huntsman (Europe and APAC), Orange (Europe), NEC (Japan), EDISON (Italy), and BRUIL (Netherlands) as in the non-profit sector, like UNHCR (Kenia), SENAI/SESI (Brasil) and healthcare organisations like Alfred Health (Australia), and GGD (Netherlands). The methodology has generated innovative new products, services and business models. It is also being used to innovate internal processes and to create a culture for innovation.

Proven effectiveness

Recent scientific research of the Open University among FORTH users proves that out of 100 ideas, 78 are taken into development and 51 are introduced, compared to 21 in an average stage-gated process. The structured methodology doubles your innovation effectiveness, as the start of innovation is so more professional. Check out a webinar on the research results.

Founder Gijs van Wulfen

The founder of the FORTH innovation methodology, Gijs van Wulfen, trains and certifies innovation professionals to facilitate the methodology, so you can facilitate it with great results in your organization or for your clients. Check out the next training opportunity.


Full steam ahead

You never start a professional expedition unprepared. Good preparation not only increases the chances of success, but also creates priorities and the will to succeed. That is why this first step in creating new concepts is so terribly important. Full Steam Ahead illustrates how you can challenge management to start a real innovation project and how you formulate an innovation assignment during the innovation focus workshop. It also shows how you can put together the correct ideation team with internal and external participants. All this lasts about five weeks and is the first step of the ideation phase.

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Observe & learn

An essential part of being innovative is to start viewing things differently. You have to detach yourself from your own existing thought patterns and habits. Albert Einstein taught us: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” So, you need to gain new and refreshing insights. That is why this second step in creating new concepts is so extremely important. Observe & Learn illustrates how you can explore innovation opportunities, trends and technology and how you can discover customer frictions among the target groups. It also shows how you can share your findings among the ideation team in an inspiring way. The entire process takes about six weeks and is the second step of the ideation phase.

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Raise ideas

This step is the pièce de résistance. It consists of a two-day new product brainstorming session and a concept improvement workshop. The brainstorming session is where the new ideas are actually prepared and developed into a concept. These concepts for new products, services or business models are further developed during the concept development workshop. The innovation opportunities, the discovered customer frictions, the involvement of outsiders and an effective creative process are all part of the third step. It is the creative peak of the expedition. Raise ideas takes just two weeks and is the third step of the ideation phase.

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Test ideas

How attractive are the new concepts and how many truly stand out? Let’s reflect on this together with customers and improve the concepts based on their feedback. At the end of this phase the innovation team will select the best 3-5 new concepts to be worked out as mini new business. Test Ideas takes three weeks and is the fourth step of the ideation phase.

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In the final step, the FORTH expedition returns home with three to five attractive new product or service concepts and enough support to fill the innovation pipeline. They will be presented to top management. A decision will be made which business cases to adopt in the formal product development process. Homecoming is the climatic step of the 20-week expedition.

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The FORTH innovation methodology doubles the effectiveness of your innovation process.

Recent scientific research proves that out of 100 ideas, 78 are taken into development and 51 are introduced, compared to 21 in an average stage-gated process.


Are you looking for an effective ideation process? Contact us for a meeting about the effective FORTH Innovation Method to jump start innovation.