What’s Your Innovation Process?

February 2020

Image: Getty

It’s easy to continue a pattern of avoiding making changes in how you work, or in the products and services that you offer … there’s no complexity, resistance, adjustment period, financial or reputation risk. However, if you don’t explore new ideas, innovations will roll on by without you, gobbling up your once-customers and prospects. Author and professional speaker Catherine DeVrye was spot on when she said, “Remember that the six most expensive words in business are: We’ve always done it that way.” With some regularity, you should put on your creative-thinking cap and implement an innovation process to build a fund of potential ideas that can be structured, planned, developed and marketed, and, ultimately, fulfill your customer’s needs.

Setting up for successful idea generation

The creative process of idea generation is spurred by competition and the elbow room needed to explore. As we say in our meetings at Twirling Tiger Media, “no idea is a bad idea.” To build your company’s innovation capital, consider these guidelines for creating an innovation culture, so that you don’t miss future advancement opportunities: 

  • Carve out time to gather your team in a relaxed setting. Make the exchange of ideas psychologically safe for everyone. As a moderator, find a balance between playfulness, encouragement and the need to meet the goal of idea generation.
  • Arrange for representation from a diverse cross section of idea-generation contributors—from innovators to implementors. Include all levels of staff that have direct contact with your customers, and those in your product development and sales and marketing ecosystem. 
  • To fruitfully exchange and evolve ideas, it’s important for stakeholders to listen and be openminded. Even when ideas are not immediately useful, accept them, document them and revisit them for future consideration as ways to connect the dots may not be initially apparent. Core to the creative process is that all ideas can be built upon.
  • If you lack an in-house team equipped to mine for ideas, infuse your process with an outside design-thinking company* for input. Outsiders are less tied to your company’s legacy capabilities and perceived strengths. They will likely conduct comprehensive research on your company to form an opinion, but, additionally, they will bring a different perspective to your idea generation efforts.

Identifying and advancing viable ideas

Once viable ideas have bubbled to the top and are ready for further exploration, they need implementors to take them to the next step. Allow time and resources for this next step as skipping it may sabotage the innovation process.

Dave Power, president and CEO of Perkins School for the Blind and Harvard Extension School instructor, offers four simple steps for identifying and advancing viable ideas:

  1. Observe your customers to uncover new problems—and opportunities.
  2. Create new solutions using your customer insights to explore new ways to make a profit.
  3. Prototype and learn in the market, adhering to the principles of lean development.
  4. Implement the best ideas, take them to market, and keep learning.

Incorporating idea generation into your corporate culture is a way for your team to break away from the grind, unite through creativity, have some fun, and advance your business.

—Maureen Joyce

*If you’d like to infuse your innovation process with an outside strategic partner, Twirling Tiger Media is ready to help you. Contact Maureen at mjoyce@twirlingtigermedia.com.