You've opened the innovation firehose; now take a drink

The value of an innovation pipeline is that it ensures your organization is getting the right mix of business results from its efforts.

The “right mix” is a deliberate approach to both breakthrough and incremental innovation at once. This includes clearly defined outcomes for the near-, mid- and long-term. If you find yourself asking, “Are we getting new breakthrough concepts into the market before our competition?” instead of “HOW do we get new breakthrough concepts into the marketplace before our competition?”, you probably have some pipeline in place.

If you don’t, here’s a basic framework to get one started. Innovation follows these four stages – and by answering some questions about how you view innovation you can assemble a powerful pipeline for new ideas and opportunities:

1.) Breakthrough/Discovery: Start with your business goals. What is the growth gap that breakthrough innovation needs to fill? What is the focus of your incremental innovation – does it benefit customers, process or product? All of the above? Once we have a vision for how we will be successful in innovation, we can back into a more specific plan.
2.) Ideation: This stage looks at directing what comes into the funnel. How do we strategically target ideas and concepts from employees, external parties and customers so we successfully achieve our business outcomes? For example, how many breakthrough topics do we need to innovate to get four game-changing products per year?
3.) Decisions: How do we successfully decide where to “place our bets?” Innovation has a lot of uncertainty; so having an advanced set of decision-making tools is critical. Once the decisions are made, how do we check in on progress and “fail fast” knowing not all bets will pay off?
4.) Results: Once ideas have been built and refined, it’s time to track their activity and measure outcomes as they move into business projects. What workflows will enable the smoothest implementation? What metrics will be used to track success?

When combined, these four stages form an innovation firehose that regularly spews new opportunities. Get ready to open wide and take a drink!

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