Innovation is critical to a company’s long-term success. Successful innovation can result in new product sales, increased revenue, or improved efficiencies.
These benefits help a company stay afloat in rough business and economic climates, such as recession or depression.
That’s why it’s important to understand the different phases of innovation and how all phases work together to help a company gain an advantage.
In this article, you will learn the different stages of the innovation execution process to get your own process in order.
What are the various models of innovation project management?
There are several types of innovation project management models. In reality, there are numerous sorts of models that can be used for different processes, including innovation, design, marketing, and others.
However, we’ll concentrate on three primary innovation models in this post.
The Stage-Gate model is a method for assessing the commercial value of an innovation project throughout the innovation lifecycle.
The funnel is divided into stages, each of which is called a “stage”. Each stage in the funnel is called a “gate”.
There’s an evaluation between the gates to see whether or not the project should continue. Three things are evaluated before a project passes through another gate.
These are the following:
- Is everything being done in the current stage?
- Is the innovation project still worthwhile in terms of business value or business case?
- Is there a clear plan for the next stage?
The Stage-Gate approach is commonly used in the development of new products. However, it may also be applied to other forms of innovation. On the other hand, some of the evaluations may need to be changed to fit the specific innovation type.
2. Lean Startup
The Lean Startup is an approach to innovation that emphasizes speed, customer interaction, and learning, based on customer feedback.
The goal of the Lean Startup model is to create a minimum viable product (MVP) so that it can be tested with customers as quickly as possible.
The methodology behind this approach has three foundations:
Because the minimum viable product is given to clients earlier, the company can more quickly identify what is effective and which elements to improve. The team will be able to get a lot more from consumer comments.
As a result of the more rapid development cycles, organizations will be able to push out operational prototypes into the market faster. Meaning, businesses will be able to test their ideas and advance better items while using less money.
3. Design Thinking
The Design Thinking model is a human-centered approach to innovation that requires an understanding of the consumers and their needs.
The goal is to create innovative solutions through the development of products, services, systems, or campaigns. The innovator’s role in this process is crucial as it will help determine where improvements can be made to satisfy customer needs.
The following are the four principles of the Design Thinking model:
- The human rule
- The ambiguity rule
- The redesign rule
- The tangibility rule
Many successful firms use the Design Thinking approach — which provides a higher ROI. Furthermore, because this technique is a user-centric one, it will increase customer loyalty and retention.
Design Thinking also encourages innovation in the company. Since it focuses on testing and disproving preconceptions, it will help to create a robust innovation culture throughout the business.
If you want to learn more about innovation funnels, we wrote a more comprehensive guide about each model. Feel free to read more about it on our website.
The Innovation Execution Stage Process
The innovation execution stage process can be used by both small and large enterprises, as well as more complicated and less complex innovation projects. It’s usually the innovation manager who oversees this process.
The innovation process should be as simple as possible.
The first three phases are known as the Fuzzy Front End. It’s described as “fuzzy” since the actual solution is still fuzzy around the edges and hasn’t been defined yet.
These are critical for identifying the actual problem and managing the process of coming up with ideas, picking the best ones, and building a viable solution that can be implemented in the last three phases.
The first three phases can generally be completed in weeks. You must obtain permission from the innovation manager or the innovation board to proceed from one stage to the next.
1. Problem Finding
Most organizations skip this stage — but it is the most important phase in the success of the innovation. They feel that it isn’t important, and would rather find a one-of-a-kind solution.
At this stage, take the time to figure out what the core issue is without assuming anything.
The result is a validated “problem canvas”, which includes a “problem statement.” You may use this method to track how each step’s outcome compares with the initial problem.
Download your own problem canvas and other innovation tools here.
The initial problem statement is very important because it will determine how the organization decides what the product/service to make, how it will be tested, and who the target customer is.
All of this information will help drive where the business moves forward in the phases of innovation.
2. Solution Finding
In this stage, you must bring in as many ideas as possible from a wide variety of sources (employees, clients, external parties, and other stakeholders).
The value “proposition canvas” is helpful for guiding the development of an idea.
Download your own proposition canvas and other innovation tools here.
The majority of businesses generate too few ideas and begin too quickly, without really researching many alternatives or picking the optimum approach.
A good brainstorming session with the correct individuals and a competent facilitator can produce hundreds of ideas in a few hours.
The output of this stage should be a list of viable ideas for testing.
In this phase, the best ideas are put to the test in a number of ways to determine their feasibility and whether or not further study is required.
The test may reveal more ideas, or it may show that an idea is the best one. You must pick an experiment type for each innovation project.
Technical feasibility should be considered, as well as testing legal and financial viability. This eventually leads to a proof of concept.
Depending on the type of idea, you might want to test its business benefit, operational potential, and/or financial viability. If the idea is software-based, there are different areas that need testing.
The outputs of an experiment project are either a finalized idea or the conclusion that more work is needed.
4. Business Plan
A financial case will be constructed following a successful experiment, and it will include the complete financial picture.
During this phase, you will use the results of the earlier phases to come up with an estimated business case.
A formal business plan must be built for every good idea that moves forward in phases of innovation.
It must include market analysis and competitor information, as well as a detailed approach for how the product/service will be made, sold, and supported.
A good business plan will save time, money, and resources by avoiding potential pitfalls before they occur. Done correctly, it is more efficient than trial and error.
An outline for a good business plan includes the following elements:
- Introduction to the company, industry, and product/service
- Market research (SWOT analysis)
- Financial projections (for 3-5 years)
- Critical assumptions
The findings of the experiment, the business case, and the development plan for implementation and delivery are all essential elements in the innovation development process.
Innovation development can then begin.
The development of the innovation is guided by a clear vision of the anticipated result, based on the innovation itself.
This vision must be specific and well-defined.
If the innovation involves new technology, it is very important to plan ahead for the technological limitations you might encounter.
It is also crucial to determine who will make and deliver the product/service if it’s software, or what kind of research will be required if it’s chemical-based.
During development, you must plan for the entire value proposition (which tends to get forgotten) and identify how your product/service will be used in a practical sense.
An important part of this stage is identifying where you will manufacture the product/service or source it from another company.
The goal is verified on a regular basis by the target audience, stakeholders, and sponsors.
The goal is to have the solution put into action and implemented.
The solution might be a new product or service — or it could be an educational program, marketing campaign, training initiative, and so on.
A pilot is often performed before the actual product is given to consumers/end users. When the consumer values the result at an 8 or higher, it is time to deliver.
It is also important to plan how you will engage customers and partners in the delivery process.
Some innovation projects are done with specific groups in mind (for example, the government or local residents) which means that communication is integral to success.
You might need to make modifications once the solution is in place, or you might just need to do more development work.
Get Your Innovation Process in Order
The stages of innovation must be followed in order.
Each project is different. Some phases may require more time than others depending on what you are working on.
Each of the phases requires considerable input from a wide variety of people, which is why you must keep communication lines open throughout each stage.
An important thing to remember is that innovation develops and changes over time. As one project finishes and another begins, it’s necessary to update your vision for where you want to take your idea in the future.
The phases of innovation are not easy, but they lead to successful outcomes.
By the way, we recently published an innovation ebook, which discusses innovation framework, culture, and sprints, in a more detailed manner. It’s completely free, so be sure to check it out.