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What are the components of an innovation process?

The innovation process creates a clear framework that structures and systematically implements the development of new products, services or business models. We will show you which components an innovation process should contain and how they interact.

Objectives and perfection as a process component

The presentation of an innovation process usually begins with the generation of ideas and ends with the market launch. In practice, however, it has proven useful to understand innovation goals as a superordinate component of an innovation process and to align the process with the goals.
Thus, the innovation process does not only start with the generation of ideas, but also with the definition of the innovation goals. In coordination with the corporate strategy, the individual goals should be clearly defined: Which types of innovation are aimed for? What is the focus? How high should the degree of innovation be? How many innovations are targeted, and in which areas?

The decision to strive for certain innovation goals marks the starting point of the innovation process and defines the derived strategies and process steps (idea generation, concept, development, etc.).

Furthermore, the innovation process should not end with the market launch, but rather integrate a phase of perfection, as improvement measures are often required in the first year after a market launch.

The 6 phases in the innovation process


Components of an innovation process


Based on these premises, in addition to the innovation goals as a superordinate process component, six further process steps in the innovation process can be determined. Between the individual steps, is always required a decision (red arrows) to move on to the next phase:

  1. Idea generation
  2. Concept phase
  3. Advancement
  4. Construction
  5. Launch
  6. Perfection
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The successful trio: Process-Method-Structure


In addition to the process in the narrower sense, the innovation process also includes the innovation method and the innovation structure. Therefore, each phase of the innovation process (WHAT) involves corresponding methods (HOW) and structures (WHO):

  • WHAT is implemented: The individual steps of the innovation process (idea generation, conception, etc.).
  • HOW the implementation is carried out: Methods and tools for the respective process stages, e. g. Innovation Roadmap, Lead User Project, Innovation Family Tree.
  • WHO makes the decisions: The level below - the structure - determines who is responsible for the respective process step and makes decisions within the company.

These three levels require appropriate coordination among themselves in order to ensure the integrated design of the innovation process.

Structured process in the fuzzy frontend

In the early, upstream phase - the fuzzy front-end - there is often no clearly defined process in companies of how to come up with ideas, and which ones should be further processed in the concept phase. An integrated innovation process also maps these process steps in a structured way in the innovation process in order to make innovations easier to plan.

The phases after the fuzzy frontend correspond to the "normal" product development process in a company, which usually starts with the development of a product (or service) in the R&D department.

Decision-making through Build-Measure-Learn 

The "Lean Start-up Method" focuses on the feedback cycle "Build-Measure-Learn" according to Steve Blank - making, measuring and learning. The aim of the method is to find out as quickly as possible which ideas, concepts, products, etc. are promising and which should not be pursued further.

The permanent evaluation process increases the likelihood of success of innovative projects, since undesirable developments come to light at an early stage and based on this, sound decisions can be made. Innovation development should therefore generally follow this evaluation process, and this at a very early stage of the innovation process.

For example, iterative hypothesis tests in the sense of build, measure, learn can be applied already in the idea generation and concept phase. The two phases alternate until a suitable solution is found, which then goes into development.

So it is not only a question of building a product, a service or a process step by step, but also of testing different alternative solutions.

Conclusion: What are the components of an innovation process?

A holistic innovation process is oriented towards the innovation goals and consciously integrates a phase of perfection that allows for refinement and adaptation. Each phase should follow a structured process that defines appropriate methods and responsibilities. Ongoing evaluation at every stage of the innovation process makes it possible to use R&D resources in a targeted manner and to focus innovation activities on promising innovations.

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Florian Muthwill

Through his profound knowledge of new technologies and trends, Florian is an important asset in innovation strategy projects, amongst other things. The volunteer firefighter is a genuine, hands-on team player and a resolute proponent of positive cultures of innovation. As an SDG and circular economy expert, he places great importance on sustainability, also in client relationships.

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