There are two sides to the innovation puzzle. The first side is often referred to as the fuzzy front-end. This is where you define your problem statements, focus your audience’s attention, and generate ideas. By using strategic areas that align with company goals, and running campaigns to support those areas, you can quickly fill your pipeline with plenty of ideas.
The second half of the puzzle is the back-end of innovation. This is where the evaluation, testing, and implementation take place. Companies are often experienced in making this process work, but all too often venture into the front-end without connecting it up to their existing back-end processes. The end result can deal a devastating blow to your innovation management efforts - with the following typical symptoms:
It’s important that you set out on the journey with a plan for handling ideas when they come in. It starts by looking at your existing processes for handling different types of ideas. A new product or service idea would typically be treated in a different way to a process improvement or cost saving idea. You will want to bring those processes into the innovation management ecosystem, and ensure that ideas flow easily into the back end. By structuring the front-end with strategic hunting grounds and clear problem definitions, you can also ensure that you receive higher quality and more relevant ideas at the top of the funnel.
Testing and evaluating ideas is a key step in the back end. Before an idea is ready for implementation, it is helpful to have a middle ground testing area, where prototypes can be developed and tested without applying rigid financial constraints. This is the concept phase, where an iterative approach is taken to build out the idea, sometimes combining several ideas together. A well-developed, solid concept is the prerequisite for a successful project at the implementation stage.
Concepts offer the opportunity to develop high-value options to fill your innovation portfolio. A concept phase also allows idea authors and teams to come together to further progress their submissions. While allowing for concepts to develop, you continuously provide feedback to the audience that progress is being made on their contributions.
Additional key factors in bridging the divide between ideation and execution include: