The value created by innovation clearly benefits the strategic direction and bottom line of many Fortune 100 companies. So why aren’t more organizations doing it? Because many organizations just don’t know how to transform innovation into a repeatable practice. If done correctly, innovation can become a measured, systemic process – and this framework can help you get there:
- Step 1 – Sense Intent. The primary objective of innovation is figuring out where to go, what to offer and how to win within the target landscape. So, before jumping right into an innovation project, figure out where you should start. This step frames the problem space through a quick diagnosis of the situation both inside and outside the organization, rethinks conventions, reframes problems and seeks new areas for innovation. This step sets an initial direction for the organization and a general sense of where the organization should be going.
- Step 2 – Know Context. Gain a more complete understanding of the surrounding conditions and circumstances behind the trends detected in the last step so your innovation has a better chance of being successful. Study how offerings perform in the market and in general terms, pay attention to what is transforming the innovation context like society, industry, technology, business, culture, politics and economics. The goal is to gain as many insights as possible about this context, to prepared to explore opportunities, and begin to see future direction
- Step 3 – Know People. Understand people and their interactions with their environment around them. The focus of this step is empathy, observation, personal engagement, and problem solving. Use observations to learn about people in ways that extract insights into their behavior. The insights that emerge typically represent the result of simply asking the question “why?”
- Step 4 – Frame Insights. In this step, transition from gathering knowledge to understanding knowledge and framing the insights discovered. Do this by using a mix of analytical structures are to sort, cluster and organize the data to find important patterns, gain perspective and gain a fuller understanding. At times, the analysis completed during this step could point to untapped market opportunities or niches.
- Step 5 – Explore Concepts. The focus of this step is to identify opportunities and explore new concepts using the insights from the last step as your starting line. The key involves postponing critical evaluation of shared ideas and instead envisioning the future through brainstorming, sketching and prototyping. Combining the creative mindset and staying grounded on the concepts revealed from previous steps ensures the concepts are defensible and grounded in reality. Prototypes constructed in this step can help focus team discussions and get early user or client feedback.
- Step 6 – Frame Solutions. This step focuses on assessing concepts, combining them and constructing rationales and stories for why they should be pursued. The strengths and weaknesses of each concept should be weighed against a set of defined criteria deemed important to the project. The most valuable concepts that work together well are combined to help create more holistic solutions.
- Step 7 – Realize Offerings. After potential solutions have been framed and prototypes tested, evaluate them for potential implementation. Ensure the solutions are built around people’s experiences and can provide real value for the organization so that strategic support can be obtained. Create roadmaps and prepare business cases to show anticipated implementation. Focus on “building to learn” by making prototypes to understand how design solutions might work and testing to see how users experience them. Initial failure and repetition is fundamental to this process.
Following these steps will not only help guide innovation efforts but they can also re-shape the innovation culture as well as the strategic direction of your organization.
Scott Severns is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.