Bringing an idea to fruition is really a six stage process. Ensuring you cover all of these steps can make a huge difference to the success of innovation in your business.
So it all starts with an idea, but how do you capture them? This stage requires more than the occasional brainstorm or dusty old feedback box. The best ideas can occur to anyone in your team, at any time.
Experience shows that researching and introducing dedicated idea management software is the simplest and most effective way to capture great ideas from your team.
This is your first evaluation stage, and it should be happening quickly and continuously. During this process, you establish a brief business case for each idea, so you can decide what’s realistically worth testing out.
If you have a Head of Innovation or are using an Innovation Consultant, they can start to add some real value, by sifting through your ideas with a targeted plan. However, it’s also good to remain open to conversation with the rest of your team.
Is an idea unique, or does it affect everyone?
Does anyone have suggestions for a solution to a problem that is affecting their colleagues, but they didn’t know about until now?
Before you’ve committed to actioning anything, transparency is key.
If it doesn’t look like it’s going to work, change it up or archive it: there’s no reason to get stuck here. Just move on to a different idea!
So the idea’s great, the whole team loves the concept, and it’s been approved by senior leadership. There’s still one step before you invest too much time and money: the proof of concept. This is the smallest viable test of the idea. Think of it as creating a mini-experiment that simply demonstrates the hypothesis is true.
During this stage you’ll want to sketch out your implementation plan, start to define your KPIs, build or buy limited units of the technology you need (if necessary), and select a test group.
This is also when you start to refine the business case for the idea. What are the potential pros and cons? What would you expect to see if you tested it on a bigger scale? Once you have this information, it’s time to get an accurate budget approved.
A pilot is a representative test done with a small group of people: enough so you can watch it in action and get real feedback, but not so many that you can’t change things up quickly.
It’s likely that you’ll want to iterate by running a couple of these, so you can test different variations on the idea. During this stage, you’ll want to establish clear, measurable KPIs for a full rollout, so pay attention to the details.
This is the stage where you stop dreaming big, and focus on problem-solving. You’ll also want to consider your internal communications and roll-out plan. Are you communicating your business case strongly enough? Test it!
The key to a successful pilot stage is simple: feedback, feedback, feedback! Watch, listen and participate, and don’t just focus on the positives. This is your chance to significantly limit risk, as long as you manage the implementation correctly.
It’s time to roll-it out to your whole company. Luckily, you should be feeling confident after a few pilots, and all your stakeholders should be on board.
After all, they’ve seen clear and compelling evidence that this really is a great idea, and know exactly how it should be implemented.
Remember to consider how this new process is going to be integrated into your existing systems, and get help with producing clear training guides.
There’s likely to be a few extra complexities with implementing your idea on a larger scale, so feedback is still key. Keep listening!
So you’ve successfully implemented an idea, maybe with a few complexities along the way, and it’s helped you to better understand how your organisation reacts to innovation. Build on this knowledge!
Establishing a replicable and reliable innovation process is one of the most valuable contributions you can make to your business.
Continue tracking the success of your initiative against its initial KPIs and make a note of any lessons learned.
Make sure that you include your whole team in the discussions, so they understand why their ideas matter, and what a huge difference they can make.