Successful innovation doesn’t rely on flashes of brilliance or random chance. The organizations that are the most successful at innovation have invested in building reliable innovation processes, tools, and structures so that innovation occurs in a regular and predictable way. They establish a clear vision for what innovation should and should not be, lay out a blueprint for the systems that will enable it, and ensure that momentum is sustained.
That’s not to say that innovation should work the same way at every organization. Corporate hierarchies and industry regulations often mean that an innovation process at a large organization can’t work the same way as it would in a trendy startup. That’s not the goal. A good innovation process allows teams to anchor innovations around customer needs, compare wildly different ideas to determine what offers the best path forward for the business, limit investment in new ideas until there is proof of a viable business model, and allow teams to shift directions when necessary. That requires not just a clear process for moving ideas through the funnel, but also defined innovation management structures and an empowered team that has the tools, skills, and support to be innovative.
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DESIGNING INCUBATORS AND INNOVATION LABS
Coming up with innovative ideas for promising new concepts is often the easy part of the innovation process. Even those companies that excel at generating innovative ideas and innovative product concepts may have trouble capturing value from their new ideas, often finding that projects are terminated before they have been given a fair chance to succeed. In many cases, truly new ideas struggle because they fail to fit into an existing business unit, meaning that they either get starved for attention or are forced to serve too many masters. Other times, concepts are successfully incubated, but they fail to survive the transition to the mainstream business. A properly designed incubator or innovation lab provides the necessary framework for an organization to ensure its ideas are given the right conditions for development, and it avoids zombie projects that linger in a neither alive nor dead state.
The right model for transitioning innovative ideas into innovative products and scaling the output depends on the company’s strategic objectives, internal culture, structure, and environment. Alongside deciding on the inputs for a growth engine, companies should determine the desired outputs. The company will need to determine how large a contribution to revenues the program is expected to make, as well as what ventures and avenues are clearly out of bounds for investment or exploration. This goal-oriented approach, which is often achieved through a consensus-building workshop, ensures embarked-upon projects are aligned with organizational strategy and will largely determine how the ideal incubator is structured.
In general, business incubation is a portfolio minded approach, where risks are spread across multiple projects and a diverse set of opportunities. A well-defined process gives idea generators a clear path for bringing new ideas into the unit, and it helps to funnel a broad set of ideas into a manageable group of actionable opportunities.
OUR PROCESS FOR BOLSTERING INNOVATIVENESS
To build broad innovation capabilities in a company, we first help clients to establish the strategic context: what sorts of innovations are most critical to pursue, and what is off the table? We then audit a company’s innovation capabilities, assessing how the company pursues different types of innovation, where the company falls short against qualitative and quantitative benchmarks, and what that might mean in light of strategic imperatives. This perspective underlies the design of a program that might encompass elements such as training, tools, collaboration mechanisms, and process development.
OUR METHODS FOR BUILDING SUCCESSFUL INCUBATORS
New Markets Advisors helps innovation teams and incubator leaders build consensus on what to do and how to measure success. We assist in developing:
OUR APPROACH TO INNOVATION TRAINING
New Markets Advisors is a leader in building cultures of innovation and training staff in essential innovation methodologies. Our approach is both dynamic and pragmatic, allowing us to teach key skills for becoming better at innovation, tying those skills to the methods and processes that teams are already using, and adapting them for the tasks and environments in which teams find themselves. For companies of different sizes, industries, and geographies, we execute superbly reviewed training that encompasses innovation theory fundamentals along with an action learning approach to innovation that doesn’t just build skills, but also allows teams to immediately have an impact on actual projects. The result is learning that persists long after our programs conclude.
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