The Process of Innovation

Innovation is often thought of as a random event in which a genius comes up with a great idea while tinkering in his garage. Unfortunately, real innovation takes dedicated work and specific knowledge of relevant subject areas. Making internal innovations in the way business is done also requires the ability to overcome resistance to change.

A recent Accenture study on innovation efforts found that companies with formal innovation management systems were “75 percent more likely to define their innovation strategy as delivering a competitive advantage (21 percent vs. 12 percent), twice as likely to introduce a new business process or model (32 percent vs. 16 percent), and 35 percent more likely to say they are typically first to market with new products or services (50 percent vs. 38 percent).” 

You can foster innovation in your organization by implementing some basic processes to help generate, solidify and evaluate innovative concepts for products, services or internal improvements.

First, be sure that you develop and nurture a continuous pipeline of innovative ideas. These ideas could come from surveys, lessons learned sessions, suggestion boxes, brainstorming sessions or a research and development area of the company. Once you have a steady flow of ideas, implement a basic review process of proposed concepts at regularly recurring intervals.

While it is true that some firms go overboard with processes, procedures, and policies, using some simple guidelines to evaluate and move improvements forward will ensure that your organization does not become complacent. Your process could be as easy as the following four steps:

  1. Define,
  2. Plan,
  3. Manage, and
  4. Celebrate

Define is the step which is intended to answer the question of why the innovative product or service is of interest to your customer. Develop an evaluation checklist that will help your organization determine if the concept should be pursued. How does the innovation support your overall strategic plan? If it is an internal process improvement, how will it serve your customers better?

If the idea is deemed worthwhile at the Define step, it moves into Plan. Determine who will manage the work, when it will occur and how the improvement or development work will proceed. This stage could be very simple or extremely complex based upon your organization and the product(s) or service(s) provided. For internal improvements, be sure to consider and develop a change management process.

Next, Manage the project in order to maintain deliverables and milestones within reasonable schedule and budget constraints. Once again, the resources for this step are highly dependent upon the product or organizational change.

Celebrate is a step that is often overlooked. Reward the team members and those responsible for bringing the change to fruition. Make it known company-wide that innovation is being recognized and appreciated.

Innovation needs to capitalize on creativity, but innovative concepts are worthless unless they are developed and implemented. A simple innovation management process can change your culture and your company.

Contact us for more information on innovation management.

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