While there are certainly many great inventions thought up and dreamt over by individuals – Thomas Edison, Graham Bell, etc. – most modern day technological breakthroughs are achieved by committee. Therefore, you should build a process – an innovation process – and bake it into your company manifesto. Because if you don’t have a formal innovation pipeline process, you’re probably building me-too products or providing me-too service options to your customer base. Here are just a few things to consider as you build (or re-evaluate) your innovation pipeline process:
How to Get Started: Your process should logically start before any engineering or prototyping occurs. You’ll want to form a committee across several internal disciplines that look at current problems you might think you have solutions for, technologies that might be worth investing in, realistic customer needs, the process of getting from the drawing board to testing and prototyping, financial costs and ROI, etc. This committee has to be self-regulating and must perform due diligence before any one idea moves into the innovation pipeline.
Collaboration: Time must be budgeted for your innovators to get out and talk to colleagues, third-party collaborators and end-users. Surveys and viability reports must be collated and analyzed with a jaundiced eye.
Prioritization: What innovations will immediately support and strengthen current company products and/or services? What innovations allow the company to expand into new territories or new client bases? What innovations are risky but might be viable as a disruptor?
Detailing and Incubation: Your innovation pipeline team would now be required to work through the nitty-gritty details of scalability, deployment and other practical concerns before turning to your engineering group. It is now that senior management (the money) gets involved and decides whether to move forward. If so, an incubation period will occur where senior leaders get involved to work out the final details that might have been overlooked.
From here on the process moves through your engineering, product development, marketing and sales channels per normal. But by setting up an Innovation Pipeline Process you use the power of your team to invent, innovate and excel by being the leaders in your market, not the me-too guys.