The Ideapreneur Journey

In seeking to improve my ability to turn creative ideas into viable products, services and processes that deliver results - and do so at speed, me and my fellow Partners at The Holos Group undertook a review of ‘best practice’ and ‘next practice’ approaches to facilitating greater workplace innovation.

Although not an exhaustive search of global practice, our research did reveal a universally recognised Innovation Journey (a journey I also refer to as the Ideapreneur's Journey as it related to how I approach tackling complex problems) . Organisations and institutions undertaking a Journey of Innovation undertook the following seven steps. 

The Innovation Journey is depicted as a ‘U’ shape with the downward arc of the U focused on the activities of creativity and the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile, and is considered to be valuable.

The three steps of the creative arc of the Innovation Journey include:

1. Spot: Identifying opportunities for innovation (either yet to be filled gaps in the market, or sub-optimal functioning of an existing products/services/processes) and generating a clear, compelling Opportunity Statement;

2. Spark: Generate ideas to address the gap or improve the sub-optimal production of an existing product/service/process; and

3. Shape: Develop and refine most desirable, feasible and viable ideas into Minimal Viable Products (MVPs) ready for real-time market testing. 

The fourth step - at the bottom of the U is Ship - ‘shipping the innovation’. Most creative ideas are never released for real-world testing, validation, feedback and refinement (or rejection!). And without real-world testing and refinement the full value of that idea will never be realised.

Even more important to the future viability of an innovation are the processes and methodologies used to ‘ship’ the innovation to the individuals it was created to serve. In essence, the faster the deployment of a new innovation and more responsive to customer expectations that innovation is the better.

4. Ship: Release an MVP to the market to validate the value proposition and test the MVP’s financial growth engine - iterate that MVP in real-time in the market until the value proposition and growth engine of the MVP will work at scale;

The upward arc of the U is more focused on the activities of innovation and the application of new solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or existing market demands.

The final three steps of the innovation arc of the Innovation Journey include:

5. Systematise: to ensure the refined MVP can be scaled effectively, it must be supported by high-quality, consistent structures and processes (and any other peripheral support products/services) that will both enable and support large-scale adoption, and these ‘systems’ must be synergised to enable maximum ‘power’;

6. Scale: to maximise user uptake of the innovation it must be deployed via high value, high leverage sales and distribution channels already primed to support the innovation to realise it full value. Strategies for scaling  validated and economically viable innovations are many. The Applied Innovation approach typically pitches the innovation’s integrated and systematised product/service suite to both known users of the MVP AND ideal customer/market segments known to be early adopters of similar innovations in the initial phase of scaling; and

7. Steward: as the innovation’s market presence matures the focus moves from promoting adoption of the innovation to supporting market to promote the innovation on the organisation’s behalf. For example, promoting and supporting customer or client advocacy are key strategies for an innovation’s entering the Stewarding phase of the Innovation Journey. Further, product/service extensions that further support existing users to maximise the value they can realise from using the innovation are also considered.

The skills, behaviours and related activities required for the more ‘creative' phases of the Innovation Journey are quite different to those required during the ‘innovative’ phases of the journey.  

Similarly, the mindsets required of an individual (or group of individuals) who take up roles within each phase of the Innovation Journey are also different. For example, the lateral thinking capacity of an individual who ‘spots’ new opportunities to innovate will be radically different to an individual more focused on idea systematisation. 

Finally, the relative risk profile and risk tolerance of an organisation and its people for each phase of the Innovation Journey will be different too. The creative process is inherently ‘messy’ and resource intensive, so organisation’s in this phase of the Innovation Journey will need to have adequate resource reserves.