There are many different models of the innovation process with varying degrees of complexity. The model we use is a simple three phase process that involves the core processes of generating, selecting and implementing ideas.
By understanding these three distinct phases, it allows you to identify where your innovation efforts might be falling short. For example, your team might generate excellent ideas but the ideas never get the backing they need and fizzle out.
When this happens, people become frustrated and disillusioned with 'innovation' because none of their ideas are put into action. On the flip side, your team might be excellent at implementing ideas but the quality of the ideas generated and/or selected is poor, resulting in a poor outcome.
Stage 1: Generating ideas
The first step in the innovation process is to generate ideas for creating or improving products, services and processes. You might engage in this process as a one-off when a problem or opportunity has been identified and a solution needs to be found.
You might also capture ideas on an ongoing basis to inform future innovation projects, for example using feedback surveys to capture improvement suggestions from customers or a suggestion box to capture ideas from employees.
Tips for generating ideas
- Ask your team members - great ideas often come from the people who do the job every day.
- Ask your customers - the people who use your products and services are a great source of innovative ideas.
- Look at other businesses and other industries - some of the best ideas come from adapting things that are already in existence somewhere else.
Stage 2: Selecting ideas
The second step is to evaluate and select the ideas that you want to implement. You may have a heap of great ideas, but you need to be very selective about the ideas you choose to explore further because exploring ideas takes time and money and they are both in limited supply.
Granted, some ideas just won't be great ideas so they will be easy to say "no" to, but others may be fantastic ideas but just aren't right for now.
For example, you might have a great idea but it's beyond the team's or organisation's current capabilities to implement it. You may even have a great idea but it's too ahead of its time and customers just aren't ready for it yet.
Tips for selecting ideas
- Don't get emotionally attached to ideas - just because you like an idea doesn't mean that it's the right idea for now. Try to be objective in your appraisal of ideas.
- Be realistic about what you can actually accomplish - make sure the team/organisation is actually in the position to implement and capitalise on the idea.
- Make sure the idea is solving a problem - if you're not solving a problem, you're not adding value. There has to be a present need or anticipated future need for the idea.
Stage 3: Implementing ideas
The third step is to implement the ideas. Implementation is not just a one-off event, it's an iterative process that involves testing, collecting feedback, and refining the ideas.
A good model to use for this is the PDCA cycle (or OPDCA cycle) used in continuous improvement. We will look at this later in this module.