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How to create a great innovation process

innovation process

Here, we describe what an innovation process is and why it is so important, as well as detailing a few different approaches to creating a process that works for your business.

We’re all sold on the value of innovation. But before successful innovation can happen, however, there needs to be a solid innovation process in place. Here, we describe what an innovation process is and why it is so important, as well as detailing a few different approaches to creating a process that works for your business. 

What is an innovation process? 

An innovation process is about putting a practical system in place so that innovation can happen methodically, efficiently and successfully as possible. By its very nature, innovation is not without risk. While innovation and creativity go hand in hand, it should not be completely unrestrained and free-flowing. It is vital that innovation is divided up into steps from start to finish, to mitigate risk and to push innovation forward as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Looking to discover more innovation management theories, frameworks and other concepts? Read our full innovation management guide.

Why is an innovation process important?

Much of the time, pushing through an innovation from idea to market-ready will require buy-in and input from across the entire organization, as well as the allocation of budget and resources. It will also involve a certain amount of risk, as well as needing careful analysis to understand whether it has been successful, and whether it has delivered a return on investment. 

By putting a structured process in place, all of these elements can be managed, overcome and delivered more efficiently and effectively. It will allow you to understand the areas in which your team is stronger and the areas in which they are weaker, enabling you to apply your learnings the next time around. 

A solid innovation process will also help multiple teams within an organization to work successfully together, with each team and individual understanding their remit and the timelines. It will help to create a sense of urgency: turning innovation from something that’s talked about as a great idea for the future into something that is part of ‘business as usual’. 

Finally, an innovation process can help you to ascertain which risks are involved in a project and help to minimize these, as well as giving you plenty of data and results to analyze your innovation’s potential and actual performance, every step of the way. 

How to create an innovation process 

For many organizations, an innovation process will consist of four different stages or phases:

1. Idea generation

To develop an innovation, the first step for many is to collate innovative ideas. These could include customer service improvements, fulfilling unfulfilled customer needs, entering a new market or new product development. Ideas can be generated based on ideas from various sources, including customer feedback, employee ideas, partners and suppliers, potential customers and competitor analysis. 

2. Screening and analysis

It’s unlikely that all of the ideas that are generated will create a viable product or service. For this reason, it’s vital that you screen every one of these ideas – and in a transparent, collaborative way – to establish how viable it really is. 

3. Experimentation, development and testing

Once an idea has been decided upon, it’s time for the experimentation stage. Here, the product or service is prototyped and tested on a targeted market that resembles the market the product will be aimed at should it prove successful. This will not only help you to establish whether your product can indeed solve the problem it was designed for, it will also help you to decide whether the timing is right. This stage may involve lots of to and froing, taking the product back to the research and development stage to make tweaks before testing once again. 

4. Bringing the product to market

The final stage is to bring the result of your innovation project to market. This will not only include the creation of the product or service itself, but also marketing, logistics, sales and sales training. There may be further tweaks down the line, but at this stage, the process is essentially complete. 

An alternative approach to creating an innovation process

However, there is an alternative approach to creating a model canvas for innovation. Acclaim Ideas uses a more practical, six-stage process to allow you to innovate successfully. These are detailed briefly below, and in more detail on the features page here.

1. Clarifying strategic alignment and business goals

Establishing exactly how you can align your ideas with your overall business model and strategy. 

2. Idea generation

Collecting ideas from across your business, ranking them by engagement, clustering these ideas around topics or goals. 

3. Testing/experimentation

Creating teams to test these ideas using design thinking, and capturing and sharing the learnings. 

4. Prioritisation

Deciding which ideas should be worked on first, and tracking their approvals and support. 

5. Delivery

Defining the scope of your project, tracking your budget, regular reviews of your progress, developing business cases and planning release cycles. 

6. Measuring innovation

Track the progress of your innovation to establish how effective it is – as well as its current and projected value.

By following a clearly defined process, you’ll not only have a solid means of developing and testing your innovations, you’ll also have a means of demonstrating how dedicated your business is to moving forward, helping to develop a strong innovation culture.

Looking for a platform that allows you to manage the innovation process? Find out more about the Acclaim Ideas approach to front-end innovation.

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