The Ultimate Guide to a Successful Innovation Workflow13 min read

Innovation is what keeps every organization alive. It allows companies to stay ahead of the competition and create value for their customers.

However, innovation is not a one-time event or a random occurrence. It is a systematic process that requires careful planning, execution, and evaluation— requiring a robust innovation workflow.

In this blog, we will explore what an innovation workflow is, why it is important, and how to design and implement one for your own innovation projects.

Let’s start.

What is an innovation workflow?

The innovation workflow can be considered a pipeline or funnel that takes innovative ideas and activities from their initial stages to completion.

In workflow automation, you can think of the innovation workflow as the stage gate process, which is a series of gates or checkpoints that help move innovation projects along the innovation funnel.

Each gate represents a point at which innovation teams must evaluate their progress and determine whether they should move on to the next stage or not.

Hence, the ultimate goal of an innovation workflow is to guide new ideas through the various stages of the funnel until it reaches the finish line— the point at which a novel solution is ready to be launched.

In short, such initiatives for innovation undergo various tasks that serve as stepping stones for these concepts to provide the most value for both the organization and its customers.

At each phase, innovation teams must assess whether submitted ideas and solutions have met the criteria necessary for implementation.

In essence, this formalized process for idea management ensures that you are able to allocate your resources efficiently, keeping each of your projects on budget and schedule.

However, innovation workflows are not rigid or fixed. You can customize them to suit different types of projects, teams, industries, and contexts.

Benefits of an innovation workflow

An innovation workflow can bring many benefits to your organization and your projects. Here are some of the main advantages of using a streamlined process for innovation:

Structured approach

Every innovation workflow provides a structured approach to managing innovation projects, which helps teams carry out innovation activities that truly meet their objectives.

By following a clear and consistent process, you can avoid confusion, duplication, ambiguity, and duplication of efforts as an organization.

You can also keep every project aligned with your organizational goals and strategies, or focus on the most important aspects of the project and avoid getting distracted by irrelevant or low-value activities.

For instance, an innovation workflow can help your team

  • Define the problem they are trying to solve
  • Identify the customer needs they are trying to address
  • Generate and select ideas that match those needs
  • Develop and test prototypes that demonstrate those concepts, and
  • Launch and scale solutions that deliver value to customers

Efficient resource allocation

Breaking the innovation process down into stages or gates better designates resources for each stage. Other than being able to increase efficiency, you can also concentrate on the most promising ideas and eliminate those that are not feasible or viable.

That way, you can avoid wasting time, money, or effort on projects that will not contribute to your growth and progress as an organization.

Case in point, enforcing an organizational home for your creative freedom pursuits can help the business dedicate sufficient means to the early stages of innovation projects. This way, employees can explore many ideas and experiment with low-cost prototypes.

It can also help every member of the team learn and fail fast without spending too much money or time.

Then, the brand can determine how much support they should give to the later stages of the project, where they can refine and validate solutions with more confidence and certainty.

Improved decision-making

The stage gate process provides a framework for evaluating progress and understanding whether it is appropriate in all aspects, with all factors considered, to proceed to the subsequent stages of bringing a particular idea to life.

This way, your innovation-related decisions are based on data and analysis rather than intuition or guesswork.

As the innovation manager, you can also include criteria such as customer feedback, market potential, technical feasibility, financial viability, and strategic alignment to assess the value and viability of each idea or concept.

Not to mention incorporating feedback from stakeholders, experts, and customers to validate assumptions and promote refinement overall.

Specifically, an innovation workflow contributes to making informed decisions about which ideas to pursue and which ones to discard.

With sufficient research, tests, and trials to measure how well their ideas meet customer needs and expectations, the team can also use data from market research, competitor analysis, cost-benefit analysis, and business case analysis.

That way, you can all measure how well your ideas fit with market opportunities and organizational strategies.

Increased collaboration

With an innovation workflow, you can promote communication among team members by keeping everyone involved towards a common goal.

You can share ideas, insights, and feedback with one another and leverage diverse accumulated skills and perspectives.

Moreover, you can also involve other stakeholders like customers, partners, or experts and solicit their feedback and input, improving the quality and relevance of your solutions.

Overall, this can create a sense of ownership and commitment among all parties involved in the project.

With an innovation workflow in place, you can help foster employee collaboration across functions and departments within the organization.

The team can also collaborate with external partners such as suppliers, distributors, and consultants in providing valuable resources or expertise for the project or co-creating services and solutions.

Better risk management

By identifying potential risks and challenges at each stage of the innovation process, your team can mitigate these risks and anticipate or prepare for possible changes or contingencies that may arise during the project lifecycle.

Everyone can test their ideas and concepts early to reduce uncertainty and failure rates. That way, you can avoid costly errors and delays that could jeopardize the success of the project.

Faster time to market

A clear roadmap accelerates the development cycle and prevents delays or rework.

In addition, validating ideas and concepts with customers and stakeholders can contribute towards meeting customer needs and expectations.

Launching initiatives in stages or iterations can help you learn from customers’ input, allowing you to refine your solutions accordingly.

To explain further, an innovation workflow also helps innovation teams launch a minimum viable product (MVP) that has the core features and benefits of their solution, but with minimal cost and complexity.

The team can then test the MVP with real customers and collect feedback on its performance and usability, then use this feedback to improve or pivot to a different solution if needed.

This leads to a more refined version of the solution which delivers more value to its customers.

How to build a successful innovation workflow

Creating an innovation workflow requires a systematic and disciplined approach to managing innovation projects from idea to implementation.

In this section, we will show you how to build a successful innovation workflow using six steps:

1. Problem Finding

Finding a problem means identifying an issue that needs to be solved. This can be done through different research methods like interviews, focus groups, surveys, and many others.

The goal of this stage is to understand the needs, pains, and desires of your customers and stakeholders, and to define the problem statement clearly and concisely.

2. Solution finding

Looking for a solution involves determining potential methods and means to solve the problem. Explore different brainstorming techniques such as those written on this blog.

The goal of this stage is to generate as many ideas as possible without judging or filtering them.

And then, you can select the most promising ones based on criteria such as feasibility, desirability, and viability.

3. Experiment

To experiment is to test the feasibility of the solution. Perform different experimental techniques like A/B testing and usability testing.

This should help you validate or invalidate your assumptions and hypotheses about the solution, which includes the KPIs necessary to measure its performance and impact.

4. Business Plan

Create a business plan for the solution you’ve come up with using different techniques like SWOT analysis, business model canvas, and more.

Bear in mind that the goal of this stage is to define the value proposition, target market, revenue streams, cost structure, and key resources of your solution, and to assess its financial viability and strategic alignment.

5. Development

Research different product development techniques and apply whatever fits the product, process, or service you want to implement.

Methods like agile development, scrum, and others help build a minimum viable product (MVP) that possesses the core features and benefits of your solution, but with little cost and intricacies.

6. Delivery

Deploy what you’ve developed in step 5. You can do this via different delivery techniques such as beta testing and product launch.

Make sure to apply the right marketing strategies so your solution reaches and entices your customers to use or purchase them.

Then, collect feedback on its performance and usability.

Use a powerful innovation software to streamline your innovation workflow

By following these six steps, you can build a successful innovation workflow that can help you manage your innovation projects more effectively.

However, building it is not enough.

You also need a powerful innovation tool that can help you streamline the process so it becomes more collaborative, transparent, and data-driven when applied.

That’s why we recommend using an innovation software that can help you every step of the way.

With Accept Mission, you can create engaging online brainstorming sessions with gamification elements and manage ideas with voting and commenting features.

With our technology, you can collaborate with people both in and out of the organization, launch projects with the right management tools, and track and measure your innovation results via online dashboards and reports.

This allows you to innovate faster, better, and smarter.

Use Accept Mission to streamline your innovation workflow. Book a demo with us today.

Published On: April 14th, 2023Categories: Innovation strategy

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