All too often organizations view innovation as a side project rather than a focused, structured end-to-end process. While unconstrained events like hack days are constructive and can spark new ideas, those ideas typically don’t fit into the business’ reality. Are they something the customer wants? Are they feasible? What are the barriers to deployment? Ideas generated in freeform innovation events can be an excellent way to brainstorm and generate a list of new capabilities or offerings that might be worth future investment, but they should be the first step in a well designed, core business innovation pipeline.
In their insightful Harvard Business Review article “What Your Innovation Process Should Look Like”, Steve Blank and Pete Newell describe how a corporate or government agency innovation pipeline should be structured: the flow from idea generation and prioritization all the way through to integration, refactoring, and eventual deployment.
As detailed in their article the suggested stages of an innovation process are Innovation sourcing, Curation, Prioritization, Solution exploration, and hypothesis testing, Incubation, and Integration and refactoring. Here’s what the flow would look like and how it would be managed in Favro.
To begin, innovation ideas will be created as Favro cards. The real-time collaborative editing capabilities of the card popup allow the innovation teams to develop and evolve the idea step by step as it flows through the pipeline. There’s no need to link to another application although attachments are possible.
This is the stage where innovative ideas are generated. This could be a dedicated team or the entire company taking a couple of days to brainstorm and build a list. The ideal place to store this list is in a Favro backlog (list).
After the Innovation Sourcing Backlog has been created, it’s time to curate those ideas based on real customer and colleague conversations. The purpose of this stage is to make sure each item is something customers actually want. It’s also used to weed out ideas based on security and integration issues. Minimum Viable Products are also built at this stage to determine technical feasibility.
In Favro, ideas that are selected for curation are pulled from the Innovation Sourcing Backlog and committed to an Innovation Process Pipeline board. As with all Favro cards, you have the option to keep the card in the backlog for tracking purposes or move it solely to the board. Innovation ideas that don’t make it through Curation should be deleted or archived from both the board and backlog.
Now working with the refined list of cards that have made it through curation, these ideas are pulled into the Prioritization stage on the Favro board. The innovation teams, not an executive committee, are responsible for prioritizing the ideas. The best way to do this in Favro is with tags, using a prioritization method all teams can agree on. The cards can also be dragged and dropped into stack ranked priority order.
Based on available capacity the prioritized innovation idea cards are pulled from the Prioritization stage to the Solution Exploration and Hypothesis Testing stage. The goal at this stage is for the innovation team to provide concrete evidence, both data-driven and through customer conversations that each idea has merit and should be included in the core product or even spun off into its own product. Technical issues such as scalability are also vetted at this stage, ensuring that once engineering actually receives the idea these issues have been addressed.
Ideas that make it through Solution Exploration and Hypothesis Testing are then pulled into the Incubation stage. This is where MVPs are further fleshed out and the innovation team has time to further gel. The ideas need time to mature and continue to prove they are worth pursuing.
Once innovation ideas make it to this stage, they’re ready to be fully developed and integrated into the existing product or their own standalone product. If being introduced into an existing product, both the product code and the organization responsible for it should be refactored to better accept the new capability. This reduces both technical and organizational debt moving forward. The end goal of this stage is to move the innovation idea and its MVP into full production.
Competitive advantage degrades over time, now more than ever. Organizations are aware that continuous improvement and innovation are necessary to stay ahead of the game. By formalizing a structured innovation process, they help to ensure that new ideas are not only generated but fully vetted and prototyped before they arrive in the hands of core development teams. The end result is that customers receive new functionality and products they actually want and the organization continues to thrive.
Create your organization’s innovation process pipeline with Favro.