In this third installment of Why Innovation Matters Now, this article will begin discussing the Innovation Process. Innovation matters now more than ever as we look forward to 2010 after surviving such a difficult and turbulent 2009 for most businesses. This new Business Innovation & Growth blog at AllBusiness.com will focus on practical approaches toward demystifying Innovation and Growth while providing tools, resources and examples for businesses of all sizes and types to gain traction in 2010 and beyond.
Our focus today is on the Innovation Process and we will discuss a few thoughts at the high level on what this process should look like. This subject will covered in much more detail in the future since it is so critical to profitable business growth.
Goals for Innovation
The goal of any Business Innovation Process is to find new ways to grow profitably. This will likely be a combination on the following:
- New products & services
- New strategies for existing customers and markets
- Finding new markets and niches
- Leveraging Hidden Assets & creating competitive advantage
- Developing or finding new technologies
- Exploring new approaches to running the Core Business
The Business Innovation Process
The major stages or steps in most Business Innovation Processes are:
- Idea / Concept Generation
- Idea / Concept Evaluation
- Business Case Development
- Prototypes & Pilots
- Business Execution Planning
- Measuring Progress
- Adjusting the Plan
- Product / Service Management
Typically the first four stages are what most people consider the Innovation Phase, however in my experience all eight stages are critical to achieve the goal of finding new ways to grow profitably. Let’s take a harder look at the first stage, Idea Generation.
Idea / Concept Generation
The beginning of any productive Innovation Process is a continuous flow of new ideas and concepts. Most companies need to be prepared to generate a lot of ideas to find a few really good ones, so this needs to be a continuous process that never stops. Please don’t think that your business can start this process whenever it needs new ideas because it simply doesn’t work that way. Companies of any size or type are much more successful by developing “innovation muscles” by continually generating new ideas. Developing these Innovation Muscles will pay off in the long run because great new idea evolve rather than just materialize.
Here are some thoughts on how to develop a continuous approach to Idea / Concept Generation:
- Formalize this first Innovation stage by forming a small, cross-functional team internally in your company made up of the following functions:
- Marketing & Sales
- Engineering & Design
- Production / Delivery
- Give this team a small amount of time in their respective schedules each week to meet and begin to learn about the Innovation Process
- Hire an outsider as a facilitator with a background in Innovation to help you start the process
- Conduct an Innovation Event with larger group of people made up of internal staff and a few customers to generate a large number of ideas quickly, your Innovation consultant should be able to help move this process along rapidly
- Each person participating in the Innovation Event will be assigned to select one of the ideas generated and describe it in as much detail as possible from the perspective of a customer or consumer of the product or service.
- Each person will then make a brief 10 minute presentation to the full group at the Innovation Event
- Each person in the group will have four votes, now vote on all the ideas and rank the top four ideas or concepts.
You are now ready of the Idea / Concept Evaluation Stage with these four ideas, which I will cover new week.