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10 tips for introducing and establishing an innovation process

The innovation process is the heart of an innovation system. If you want to produce successful innovations systematically and continuously, you need a professionally designed innovation process. Innovations cannot be left to chance.

A process ensures that the search for ideas and their transformation into successful products takes place with maximum effectiveness and efficiency. To achieve this, each company must establish an innovation process that meets its own individual requirements. In this article you will find a collection of 10 important tips on what to look for when introducing an innovation process.

1. There is no panacea!

Those who hope that there is an innovation model that can be adopted and introduced one-to-one are unfortunately mistaken. There are many models of innovation processes that can be used as a guide. In practice, however, the process must be geared to the individual requirements of an organization. There is no off-the-shelf innovation process, it always has to be tailor-made.

In concrete terms, this means that you first have to identify your internal requirements. Questions that should be answered are for example: What do you want to achieve with the innovation process? What are the decision-making structures and responsibilities with which the process must harmonize? Then you take a generic innovation process (e. g. stage gate process) and adapt it together with the most important stakeholders. In this way, a tailor-made and optimal innovation process is developed that is geared to the needs of the organization.

2. Innovation methods improve the result!

In addition to process design, methods play a very important role. They are important helpers who can help you to reach your goal faster, improve quality and help you avoid flops and mistakes in time.

There are numerous innovation methods in innovation literature. It is important to find out which methods are best suited for the company and its requirements. It is recommended to deal with as many different methods as possible, to try them out and to work with method experts in order to adapt them to your own requirements. This is how you discover the optimal set of methods over time.

3. From beginning to end!

An innovation project starts with the search for ideas and ends with the successful handover and integration of the new service into the operative business, i. e. sales, product management and production. The project must not be considered completed until everything in terms of production and distribution is functioning and running. The innovation project must not be completed at the end of development. This is, so to speak, only part of the innovation tasks, because many important, success-determining innovation tasks occur during the start-up and many stumbling blocks are still lurking, which have to be cleared before the product can yield a successful return. In this phase, innovation requires a great deal of attention. There are still many small product errors that need to be corrected, and marketing requires a lot of resources to convince employees and the market of the product.

Therefore, the innovation process must include not only the search for ideas and evaluation, development and testing, but also implementation in production and sales. This is an important focus, otherwise the best new product could crash as a flop.

4. The process must be flexible and adaptable!

A production process, for example, produces products where each is the same. But an innovation process creates products where none of them is the same as any other. Every idea and every innovation project is individual and therefore has different requirements. Product adaptation requires a different approach than the development of a new service.

Therefore, the innovation process must be designed in such a way that it can be flexibly adapted. Each cycle can be adapted to the requirements of the innovation project. There is a clear and fixed rough run-through, but the details are adapted variably, for example on the basis of checklists.

5. It is a process and a project!

Due to the uniqueness of a process run, it is also referred to as an innovation project. A project is defined as a time-limited task with beginning and end, which is unique, has a high novelty character, is complex and interdisciplinary.
Therefore, innovations require not only the process but also project management. You need your own project organization, good planning and management. And this also implies that innovations need strong and competent project managers for successful implementation.

6. It needs a carer!

An innovation or the innovation project requires strong ownership. This means, a project manager as a caretaker, the managers as promoters and, in addition, clear responsibilities with commitment.

Innovation projects are highly interdisciplinary, involve dozens of functions and often take years. So that the focus is not lost and the project runs in the sand, it needs a caretaker, who always has the project goal before eyes and mobilises all and everything on it. He assumes responsibility for the success of the project and is endowed with the necessary competences and rights.

7. Avoid silodenc!

The project manager plays an extremely important role. As already explained, he is the carer who devotes his heart and soul to the project and ensures that the goals are achieved. This is a particular challenge for innovation projects, since innovation projects are extremely interdisciplinary and involve almost all functional areas. And their commitment and cooperation is critical for the success of the project. In addition, it makes it even more difficult for innovations to compete for resources with day-to-day operations.

The project manager must therefore tune all participants to a common goal, which is the most important core of an innovation project. The leader has to inspire people for the goal, clarify the responsibilities clearly and eliminate interface problems and silodencas. This is a very challenging but also exciting task.

8. Knowing why and why!

The important superstructure of an innovation process is the strategic orientation and the strategic contribution. It requires a clear definition of the purpose of the innovation process and how it contributes to the corporate vision and strategy.

On the one hand, this clarity is relevant for the results of the innovation process, so that the things that are important for the company and its further development also happen. But above all, it is also essential for sensitizing and motivating those involved. If there is no clear and plausible sense and purpose to them in the innovation process, they will hardly be able to mobilise and enthuse for the collaboration.

9. Training courses ensure acceptance!

A further fundamental element in the context of change management and an innovation culture is not only the understanding of the warum but also the necessary skills. Training courses and seminars on the innovation process and innovation methods guarantee that employees are able to "apply" the innovation process in addition to "wanting". This ensures that it is lived - an important foundation for the results and success of innovation activities.

10. The innovation process is never complete!

An innovation process is a relatively complex, extensive and critical process. This also requires that the process itself be continuously developed and optimized. Potential for improvement must be actively sought, for example through feedback from users and project teams or through insights from the analysis and lessons learned workshops. In this way, the process is constantly adapted to the requirements of the organization, the market and the future and further developed to high performance.

Conclusion -10 tips for introducing and establishing an innovation process

The innovation process is a complex challenge, but offers a wide playing field with many possibilities to influence the output and success. However, the introduction and establishment of an innovation process requires careful handling with a high degree of sensitivity, which is what the organisation and its environment need in terms of innovation. An innovation process has very high demands, but taking into account the needs, one has strong chances of a continuous and systematic innovation success.


Jannik Böckenholt

As an expert for New Business Development, Jannik is your reliable companion for new commercial ventures. When it comes to the restructuring of innovation processes or the application of innovation methods, the learned project manager guides you to your objective step by step, while making sure there is fun along the way with his inspiring storytelling in the workshops he moderates.

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