How to Make an Innovation Process that Actually Works

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What is your company’s innovation process? Follow up question: does your company have a set  innovation process?

Often, companies have ground-breaking ideas but lack the organizational structure to get them off the ground. Waiting for the innovation to develop itself rarely works: in fact, over 90 percent of innovation projects end in failure.

And with so much disruptive competition, the stakes are higher than ever. The more strategic and methodic your innovation and decision-making process, the higher the chances of the innovation thriving in the market.

The innovation process: the basics

In a nutshell, innovation revolves around observing a problem and finding a solution:

  1. Brainstorm viable products or services that solve the problem, ideally in your existing market
  2. Pursue the challenging task of actually creating something never-before-seen that solves the customers’ problem
  3. Don’t wait until you have the innovation perfected (it’ll never be); instead, test a prototype on a small sample market, collect valuable feedback, and refine as you go
  4. Put it on the market: gage the results, and continue utilizing user feedback to further refine

4 steps to launching a great innovation

These steps are fundamental to launching a great innovation, but they’re only the surface. For your innovation process to truly thrive, here are four essentials:

It must be purpose-based

The importance of a purpose-based innovation process 

When embarking on the innovation journey, it’s important to never lose your sense of “why” —  your innovation’s basic purpose. The problem your innovation solves should take priority over often-distracting factors such as how “fun” it looks or how “trendy” it appears. Even the prettiest of products won’t succeed if they lose site of the fundamental pain points: indeed, over three-fourths of innovation failures are due to missing the markets’ real needs.

It must utilize innovation teams and collaborations

To cultivate a true innovation culture, your R&D team shouldn’t operate alone. The most effective innovative processes encourage collaboration within all aspects of production — think: investors, field experts, marketers, manufacturers and distributors — as they know valuable aspects of production you’ve probably never even considered.

Further, the best collaborations include the customers themselves. It’s vital to involve the customer experience — if the ones innovating have never even experienced the problem they’re trying to fix, this is a problem. Also consider the fresh input of non-buyers with unmet needs and “lead users” who need solutions to issues sooner than the general market.

Does your company offer the freedom and space to consider these diverse, real-world perspectives?

It must be based on market need

The importance of an innovation process based on market need

 Your innovation team may have a hunch that you’re onto something groundbreaking, but unless it can be backed with hard evidence, success is unlikely. Idea generation is encouraged and even necessary for a successful innovation, but only ideas that can be validated should continue down the pipeline.

Project approvals should be based on technological viability, clear consumer interest and quality market insights, not the loudest speaker or the one with the most “authority.” This should happen before the product is further financed, while there’s still little to lose.

Having a “failure is okay” mentality will encourage your team to take risks and dare to dream in the beginning stages — this is great, as long as their assumptions aren’t treated as fact until validated externally through pilots, testing and market research.

It must operate with speed

Anyone experienced in innovation management knows that time is precious. It’s vital to move with a sense of urgency — and, more importantly, to quickly reroute when needed. Learn from mistakes, and shift without hesitation. The ability to quickly learn what to prioritize and what to let go is invaluable.

On a larger scale, the world of innovation moves at lightning speed. Thus, if you’re fostering a hesitant environment or relying only on existing products and ideas, you won’t be able to keep up with disrupting competition.

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For successful innovation planning, you need more than a trendy office, bean bags and dreamers — you need a clear, consistent and repeatable process that allows all members to quickly contribute, organize, prioritize, test and reroute. So, what are you waiting on? Your company’s reputation depends on it.

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