Innovation is the linchpin, the enabler for us to think and act differently. Now, more so then ever before, businesses need to innovate in order to evolve and emerge as industry winners in the years ahead.
At this very moment, we have un-paralleled access to data, extensive high-speed processing power with zero latency, and computing that enables sensing, comprehension, analysis, guidance and action (AI). We also have the libraries, components, code and intelligence to put this all together.
Thanks to this ever-increasing technological advancement, businesses we once knew and loved, the Woolworths, the Blockbusters – all part of our society and never questioned in their longevity – disappeared overnight. They were superseded by more agile, nimble disrupters who swept in and became household names within a matter of months.
Digital innovation is also exponentially accelerating. In 2007, a 3D printer cost $40,000. Today, they can be purchased for under $100. In 2007, it cost $10,000,000 to sequence your DNA. Now, you can do it for less than $100 at home. And speed is of the essence; Google, founded in 1998, had a market cap of $1bn 8 years later. This took Tesla just 4 years, Oculus Rift a mere 547 days and Snapchat less than a year.
COVID-19 has accelerated the timeline for the new future of work, and digital has turbo charged everyone’s lives. Organizations will have to disrupt themselves through innovation, collaboration and speed in order to thrive in 2020 and beyond.
6 Steps to Successful Innovation Management
Companies that dedicate budget, resource and time to innovation have proven results. We’ve seen business cases for innovative ideas that identify costs savings into the millions, with brand new revenue streams and efficiencies that cull manual processes, giving time back for more value adding tasks.
Thinking differently, challenging the status quo and identifying new ways of working are all types of innovation. Whether is incremental (process improvement) through to pure disruption, innovation initiatives can be identified, prioritized and developed into a proof of concept (POC). Businesses can iterate this POC into a minimum viable product (MVP) to test with consumers to see if the idea is of value to their organization. This ‘innovation funnel,’ from idea through to a tangible solution, can be effectively managed throughout an organization in a cost-effective way.
In our experience, there are six key steps that organizations should follow to develop and manage ideas for innovation.
- Obtain senior sponsorship
Innovation has to be top down in an organization in order for it to thrive. Obtain a senior sponsor to champion the cause and be ever present during innovation discussions. Teams need to know that this is rubber stamped from the top in order to give it the head space, time and passion it requires. It’s also extremely important to convey openness and willing for internal innovation, to shift the mindset culturally to challenge what exists today. Without this, initiatives are less likely to succeed.
- Work towards an initial challenge
Presenting a dedicated question, problem statement or challenge to everyone within an organization will achieve the greatest results. Alternatively, you can identify a cohort of passionate people who you can also initiate with the above challenge. Problem ‘finding’ can be as effective as the problem ‘solving’. Giving a specific goal will ensure that there is no ambiguity for what you are setting out to achieve.
- Crowdsource the innovation
Once you have identified a group for innovation, next comes crowdsourcing the initiative. To set the challenge you need to be able to manage the ‘innovation funnel’ in order to prioritize and select the highest value ideas up front. There are many OTB solutions on the market, such as Brightideas.
- Rate all ideas
You will also require a set of reviewers who will score or rate the ideas on a regular cadence as they come into the funnel; we’ve found every two weeks to be particularly effective. These reviewers need to be experts in their fields, passionate about innovation and keen to get involved, as it can be quite a commitment.
- Test the hypothesis
Once rated, the top ideas can be selected and put forward for funding to be developed into something tangible to test. A proof of concept is enough to check whether the idea can be stress tested against the hypothesis (and disruptive technologies if something completely radical). After testing the hypothesis and carrying out a usability test, you have grounds to scale to a MVP in order to get it into the hands of the real-life consumers. This step should include reporting the results on an ongoing basis to ensure that people can see the value.
- Create a buzz
We recommend that innovation teams obtain comms support to create and market the campaign, generating a buzz around on the activities and outcomes. The idea generators themselves should also be involved from start to finish, from developing their proof of concept through to testing the final solutions. And last but by no means least, it is important to recognize the achievements. Hold twice yearly awards to acknowledge the innovation ideas, celebrate your successes and ensure everyone is taken on the journey.
Whilst innovation is not something that can be easily created, it is more freely available then people think. Every advancement in our society has required someone to challenge what is done today in order to create something new. It is obvious (more so now than ever) that thinking differently, and questioning more, will eventually present innovative options.