You must be creative and disciplined in your approach to innovation. You will be different from your competitors. No matter how small or big your business is, you can turn your ideas into a profitable business.
1. Idea Capture
Create a process to capture ideas. Know your market and understand customer expectations. Be aware of trends and potential changes. What are your competition doing? Create a system that allows all employees to share ideas. This will increase diversity. All employees should be able to contribute ideas, in accordance with the sales and marketing strategy.
2. Prioritization of Ideas
Define a process to prioritize ideas. How do you choose the right ideas for your next product? How do you rank ideas? Do you have the ability to create a balanced portfolio of ideas (i.e. products, systems, and services)? Is it you or your company responsible for evaluating ideas? Do they have the resources, time and knowledge to do so? What are your methods of providing feedback to the idea-initiators? How fast can you assess and prioritize ideas?
3. Idea Maturing
Establish a process for testing and maturing ideas. To determine if the highest priority ideas are worth the effort, time and money to bring to market, test them. You should consider elements like pricing, marketing, technical and financial. Make sure that you have the resources necessary to allow ideas to mature, such as time, people and information. Consider the market impact on price, market share and competitor reactions. Create a go/kill decision process. It doesn’t look right?
4. Management of a new project
Define the process of ongoing management and start-up. Who will be the leader of the project? Are they available to provide the necessary skills and time? Are the data sufficient to make the final decisions? Eg, pricing strategy, market readiness, set-up costs etc. To ensure that the process is monitored and reviewed at designated times, establish a “stage and gate” type of process. Is it ready to go? Are you currently testing the product? Are you using client relations to resolve objections? Be cost-conscious. All of the above
5. Innovation is launched
Make a plan to launch your product/service. Plan for all possible market impacts. This stage is important to warm the market. Include all relevant employees. Begin the process of training/familiarisation with any new product, service or way of working. Preparing the “go to market strategy” ie What will the sales process look like? To launch the innovation, create a positive PR event.
6. Management of overall innovation
A clear vision of the innovation strategy should be shared. A clear and specific process should be established for managing ‘cradle-to-grave’ innovation. Establish clear rules on profitability of new products/processes/services. Clear pricing guidelines should be established for the market. Establish clear metrics to measure innovation’s effectiveness. To measure efficiency, establish sensible metrics such as time taken from idea maturing and launch, profit margin per product, market share growth, new customers gained, etc. Does the market accept your innovative approach? Innovation is a distinct differentiator. It should be a profit-generating tool.
7. Continuous Improvement
As you measure your success, continue to refine your approach to each stage. While your process may not be perfect, it can improve and bring better results. Focus on profit and ask yourself if this idea will bring you tangible business benefits. You might reconsider. If you are positive, do it!