9 Steps To A Successful Innovation Program. It’s Not Just Software.

The Software Is A Minor Part of A Successful Whole

In order to successfully innovate within your organization, you need more than just the implementation of a tool to capture and review ideas. Many firms that I come across feel that all they need to do is just that – identify a need to gather ideas from employees, then simply go out and engage with some innovation management software company, like Spigit or BrightIdea or the rest, implement it, and let the big new billion-dollar business ideas just roll in.

In my experience, the tool selection is a small, but important part of an overall strategy. You rarely have a successful program if you simply do some due diligence on the innovation management solution that’s best for you, get it installed, then send an email out to announce that your employees have a place to submit ideas. That just won’t cut it if you want the program to be successful.

While the innovation management software firms do have a stake in the success of your program, they are, first and foremost, software vendors. To them, the implementation and configuration of the software is of paramount importance.

If you want to ensure that your program is a success and that you capture the best ideas from your employees, you need more than just software. You need to develop an effective program, of which the tool is just a small part.

While I have detailed all of these steps in my book, Innovation Mastery, here are some of the steps, in short:

  1. Determine the outcome: what is really driving you to innovate? Are you innovating to look good? Or are you innovating to truly deliver new products and services
  2. Determine the right map-to-culture: is your organization ready to innovate? How far can you push things? Can you “go there?”
  3. Determine the stakeholders: identify all of the individuals involved who can assist in developing the program. These range from the ultra essential executive sponsor, to your marketing folks, human resources, and many others
  4. Determine the theme, style, and communications: think of it as an internal product launch: you need to make it cool, exciting, and engaging. How can you do that? Think about what fits in the style of your organization. In our view, it helps if the program has an “optimistic future focus” – imagine a time, in the near future, when most of the barriers which are troubling you now are resolved, and you can invent almost anything you like.
  5. Determine the rewards: what will inventors get when they submit ideas? What will the inventors get when they submit great ideas? Which ideas win?
  6. Determine the process: who will decide which ideas move forward? How will they move forward, and what will the inventor gain?
  7. Determine the timeframe: will this be an ongoing or timeboxed engagement?
  8. Determine the challenges: what are the problems, if any, that you are trying to solve? In some cases, you may not want to provide any challenges at all and let your people’s minds run totally free. In other cases, you have specific problems that you wish to address. Which will it be?
  9. Finally, determine which software you will use, or buy, and implement it.

There are many elements to a successful program. While innovation can be fun, it serves a serious purpose: more than a place to submit ideas and motivate employees, it can generate ideas that are so powerful that they could conceivably become your future business, especially if you are in a declining industry. When disruption is on your doorstep, only innovation can save you – and there is plenty of it, right within your own ranks.

All you need to do is to ask it.