4 Stages for Creating an Innovative Ideation Process within Your Organization

on July 18, 2017

For many enterprises, the unique challenge of adopting a digital transformation strategy lies in coming up with new and innovative ideas to add value to the business. New technologies like the Internet of Things and blockchain, make this especially difficult due to such a nascent market that lacks successful examples. Many times, organizations struggle with where to begin.

The challenge of idea creation for most organizations stems from the lack of an ideation process and culture. Someone may have an idea, but no easy way to pitch it to their superiors, who in turn, may lack processes for vetting, prioritizing, and developing these ideas. To create a culture for innovative idea creation, your organization should follow these four stages that support the ideation process, from idea to full product delivery:

Stage A: Enable the person with the idea to seek a sponsor

Your organization should put value in the role of an idea coordinator. This person is someone that can help others with their ideas and assess whether there is enough value to take the idea a step further. The idea coordinator is crucial to making the idea a reality, and acts as a sponsor and guide for the idea creator.

Step 1: The first step in making this a reality is to create an idea suggestion process. Your organization should have a well-known process for seeking an idea coordinator (i.e. filling out an idea form to be submitted for review). Many companies motivate employees to fill out idea forms with a competition or a financial incentive if the idea makes it all the way to a product.  If the idea fits the business goals, the coordinator then makes an appointment for a pitch.

Step 2: The process should continue with the idea creator pitching their idea to the coordinator to receive approval to pitch the idea to a relevant executive. During this step, the coordinator should provide guidance for filling out a one-page idea brief to send to the executive.

Step 3: The idea creator should now be in a good position to pitch the one-page idea brief to the executive for his sponsorship and approval to start prototyping.

Stage B: Create a Process for Executive Approval of the Prototype

This stage should involve the executive managers of the organization, as the idea prototype will need their approval to move forward. The most important thing to think about in this stage is pinpointing the added value that the idea will bring to the organization.

Step 4: The expert should review the one-page idea brief, which will result in a scoped and more in-depth core version for the prototype. This step is where the executive and coordinator will understand the exposure and complexity of the idea.

Step 5: Build the prototype with the defined user story in two days. This step is where the Minimum Viable Businesscase (MVB) should be understood for the minimum viable product you are trying to accomplish within two weeks. This includes understanding what resources the idea will take to build and what the goals and KPIs are.

Step 6: At this stage, the prototype and the MVB should be ready to present to the executive team for approval. If the executive team decides the prototype is approved for a two-week MVP, a formal Product Owner and other IT resources should be allocated.

Stage C: Create a Process for the Executive Approval of the MVP

Before continuing to this stage, make sure the KPIs and goals of the MVP are fully thought through.  If the MVP is not clearly aligned to the executive’s KPIs and targets, it is much more challenging to get their approval.

Step 7: Build the two-week MVP, create a businesscase for the product, and clearly define the user journey. The businesscase should consider a product timeline of three months with a multi-release strategy.

Step 8: Now is the time to demo the two-week MVP to the executive managers for initial go-live approval and budget to start building the product and multi-release strategy.

Step 9: The team is ready to develop the three-month product.

Stage D: Create a Process for Executive Sign Off for Product Development

This stage is where you will demo and learn. Demo the project for three months and check the KPIs for success.

Step 10: Evaluate the product and present the findings to the executives, including lessons learned, recommendations and KPI results.

Step 11: Organize a retrospective with all the idea process stakeholders. Decide if the product will be released for a full go-live.

With this process in place, your organization will have a structured and organized way of capturing ideas and presenting them to the right people at the right stage of the process. It is important for the idea coordinator to be involved in every step of the process, acting as a supporter and sponsor of the original idea. With a process in place to submit ideas, more members of the organization will be inclined to submit their ideas, especially if they witness their peers submitting ideas that make it all the way to product development.