The Innovation Process is our approach for managing ideas from “Concept to Completion” through a combination of best practice tools and techniques in innovation management.  Everybody likes to have a good idea, but somebody has to take it through a series of process steps or stages to successful implementation. In other parts of a business this approach would be generically known as Project Management. 

What are the generic steps in an Innovation Process? Each company or organisation will have their own bespoke process steps or stages – based on their business, sector and the way their organisation is structured. However, most process steps will include elements such as; assessing the initial feasibility of an idea, creating a detailed business case for the idea, developing the idea in more detail, piloting it as a trial and implementing it in the chosen market. Even after this best practice says that after rollout a good innovation process should include getting feedback on the rollout and creating a lessons-learned log to inform the next idea and innovation (the “feedback loop”). The process stages can be seen as a continual cycle rather than an end-to-end linear process.

Innovation Process

Having worked with some of the world’s most innovative and successful companies Innovation Leaders have distilled down the key factors which we believe contribute to developing an innovative culture within any business – the 6 ‘Ps’ of the Integrated Innovation Framework. We believe that every company should have its own, customised, fit-for-purpose, Innovation Process.

An Innovation Process should be:

  • Comprehensive. Covering every part of the innovation process from generating ideas in the first instance through to the implementation of projects or products in the operational part of the organisation and gathering feedback after launch.
  • Best Practice. All parts of the process should radiate excellence! We have an extensive library of tools and techniques garnered from hears of working with great companies.
  • Cross-Functional. Everyone should be able to contribute to innovation within a business. An innovation process should touch upon everyone’s role.
  • Risk Assessed. Effectively integrating Risk Management into all Innovation activities.

So what elements or steps are involved in an innovation process?

  1. Generating – How do actually create good ideas? In fact there are many internal creativity programmes that go a long way to generating new ideas. In the Pipeline (Funnel) element of Innovation Management we presented the idea of internal and external sources of ideas. Generating the ideas should not really be hard work. Many people would love the opportunity to present this ideas – but they often don’t get the chance.
  2. Gathering – All ideas need to be brought together. This will allow rational decisions to be made and comparison between ideas developed. Technology is definitely the solution here (see Platform). 
  3. Screening – having generated a number of innovative ideas, you will need to screen them and prioritise them as soon as possible. This is to ensure you are not wasting time and effort on ideas that are not going to go anywhere. This initial screening process step can be painful and seen to be counterproductive but it is necessary to prevent the organisation being bogged down with useless and irrelevant ideas that do not fit with strategy (see Planning). You will need to kill off inappropriate ideas quickly but sympathetically. Remember that someone in your organisation has spent time coming up with this idea and may take it personally! 

To be able to screen effectively you will need to have some criteria set up in advance. These should be related to the ‘performance gap’ – how vital is it to do something new compared with available resources. Most clients find that an effective screening process prevent ‘innovation overload’ where the sheer volume of ideas, insights and innovations (i3) from multiple sources almost paralyses the company! We would recommend that an organisation creates its own screening criteria but as a guide Innovation Leaders and their IT partner company, Softools, have created a generic model to help in this screening step: The V-SAFE Model.

V-Value – will the adoption of the idea deliver tangible benefits to the organisation? This question helps eliminate ideas that are good in principle but add little or no value to the bottom line. ‘Tangible’ means that proponents of the idea or innovation will have to estimate or calculate the specific benefits (value) that will arise as measured by set KPIs.

S-Suitable -is the idea consistent with future strategy and the business situation? This helps eliminate ideas that are potential distractions from the chosen strategy and move the business away from its core focus. If an idea is not ‘suitable’ it may still have value  but only if implemented in other ways – maybe outsourcing or licensing to others.

A-Acceptable – will stakeholders support it, and if not at the moment, could their support be secured? Often innovations fails in large organisations due to the ‘not invented here’ syndrome. It is crucial that supporters of an idea spend time and effort selling the idea internally and gauging the level of support for it. To be brutally frank, a great idea will go absolutely nowhere if you ignore this step.

F-Feasible – are there sufficient resources or time? Can the new idea be managed within existing budgets and management resources? Will additional resources or funding be required? Would you need to invest in new skills to implement the new idea effectively? The answers to these questions will not only affect the timeline for effective implementation but also the return on investment calculation (see Value). See it as a reality check!

E-Enduring – will the idea deliver value in both the long and the short term? If a new idea or innovation is to be truly strategic and game changing then it should survive the rigours of time. Is the long term gain worth the short term pain involved in the management of the idea and the possible change to the business? Again this highlights the return on investment (see Value).

4. Implementation – Usually this means using the established project or programme management process in the organisation. There is nothing more frustrating than having a great idea, seeing it through all the process steps and screening criteria only for it to fail through poor project management!

We here at Innovation Leaders have years of experience of creating best in class business processes and helping you pilot them until they become second nature and part of the way you work. Contact us to find out how we can fine tune or create your own bespoke Innovation Process.