Interesting quote this week by Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine…”in the new economy free becomes inevitable”. It hammers home the point that if your company isn’t constantly innovating and developing new products/services for your customers then you’re living on borrowed time because someone is going to figure out how to do it cheaper, faster, smarter.
My experience has been that there are no shortage of ideas in a company just a lack of process on how to manage them. It doesn’t have to be a complex exercise but defining a process will put you steps ahead of the competition. Successfully managing the product innovation process has some real benefits but needs to start with a few basic criteria:
- Have a clear objective in mind…i.e problem to solve, market to target, sales target
- Promote risk taking in your organization…without risk there can be no reward
- Define a process for evaluating ideas (more on this later)
- Allow time for free thinking…nothing stifles creativity faster than a lack of think time
- Encourage communication across the organization
In terms of the process for managing ideas it’s a simple three steps:
- Start with a simple 1 page summary of any new idea that is generated. The summary should capture basic information like general description/outline of the business idea, target market, executional issues, high level financials (a must) and timing around when the project could likely be launched.
- Review these 1 page summaries with the management team on a monthly or quarterly basis and prioritize each one for further development and funding
- Projects that are prioritized for further development should be assigned to one person who is accountable for moving the project forward but also has the support of an executive sponsor.
Once you get this far the process becomes more manageable and projects are easier to track. Each 1 page summary that is identified for further development should then be fast tracked through what I call the ‘innovation stations’.
- Concept Document – used for feedback/input from the various functional groups
- Business Plan – more detailed project description that includes financials & implementation plan
- Business Case – the ‘go/no go’ document
Implementing these steps can be as rigorous or fluid as they need to be depending on the culture of your organization. Regardless of the approach though, managing the innovation process is a critical process for business survival.
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