“When you come up with an innovative idea and create a company for its realization, nobody wants to hear about it. But when you bring it to the global market and make it profitable, everyone wants to invest money in it”
Bill Burnett, Executive Director of the Stanford Design Program
In the 21st century, appear more and more various projects that claim to be not just services that facilitate various processes, but innovative services - ideas that can make a real breakthrough and often become a multi-million dollar business. The reason for this is the fact that each person is unique, and therefore seeks to create a new, unique, special.
In addition, today another phenomenon exists that is worth paying attention to. While trying to randomly recall several companies associated with innovative ideas and revolutionary products, it’s Apple, Tesla Motors, Uber and other companies related to the field of digital technology will come to mind first. This interesting trend is due to the high relevance of the solutions made by these companies, and we can confidently say that software innovation has a much greater chance of leading its creators to success. According to Forbes, 89% of organizations plan to implement the “digital first” approach as their business strategy.
Anyway, every innovation, regardless of industry, begins with a well-developed idea. In this article, we will help you understand the key steps of the idea development process, starting with its creation and ending with implementation.
By definition, idea development is the process of creating, developing, and conveying ideas. The process includes creation of innovation, concept, process and implementation of a concept created.
Step 1: Invent
Well, let's start from the very beginning. Where do innovations come from? The influential management theorist of the 20th century Peter F. Drucker identifies the following sources:
- Changes in the external environment, structure and needs of production and markets;
- Demographic changes, both local and global;
- The human perception of needs and the meaning of life;
- Accumulation of critical mass of new knowledge, leading to a quality enhancement.
It is believed that new discoveries in the business sphere happen by chance: you just need to be constantly on the lookout, however, as can be seen from the classification above, many different factors, both external and internal, contribute to appearance of innovation ideas. Of course, intuition is a great helper in choosing and analyzing a suitable idea, but not everyone has it developed at the appropriate level. However, it is quite possible to generate a great idea without it if you approach the issue of searching for innovative ideas from a rational point of view. The most famous techniques for an orderly search for ideas include:
- Improving the prototype. The shortcomings of existing models are identified and ways to address these shortcomings are worked out.
- Brainstorming. A group of people conducts a multi-aspect analysis of the problem and generates a stream of thoughts and ideas, thinking up even the most fantastic solutions as criticism is prohibited here. As a result, the chances of finding the right approach increase. Synectics. This is a collective motivated intellectual activity of a permanent group of specialists with a strong leader. It is an advanced brainstorming method in which criticism is allowed.
- Elimination of deadlocks by non-traditional methods, with going beyond the knowledge, experience and traditions. Often, this method leads to the creation of new theories that conflict with the current picture of the world. Creation of morphological maps by a qualified team of developers expanding the search area for a solution to the problem.
Working with the methods above has several significant advantages. Where a person who relies on intuition "feels", his competitor with a rational approach "knows". In addition, the further project develops, the less room left for intuitive decisions due to increasing risks. In its turn, if the idea development was based on a solid evidence base, expert forecasts, and analysis of a large array of statistics and other data, these risks could be avoided at the earliest stages of innovation development.
Step 2: Inspect
After the idea is formed and approved, the moment of further planning comes, the development of an innovative strategy to be more clear. It differs from the usual business strategy first of all by the lack of similar projects examples, which entails a number of difficulties. Particularly, innovative strategies create difficult conditions for project and corporate management, because:
- the level of uncertainty of the results is increasing, which makes spending time and resources for such a function as innovation risk management;
- increase of projects investment risks. The portfolio of innovative projects is generaly consists of medium-term and especially long-term projects, which require considerable resources for full implementation and further development.
- enhancement of change speed in the organization due to innovative restructuring. Flows of strategic change should be combined with stable ongoing production processes. It is necessary to ensure a combination of interests and coordination of decisions in strategic, scientific, financial, industrial, and marketing management.
However, these difficulties will pay off by the recognition and profit gained after the release of the innovative product. Additionally, you can greatly simplify the task if you know where exactly to look. Outstanding engineer and inventor Joseph “father of robotics” Engelberger said that there are three pillars of any innovation:
- An identified need;
- Financial security;
- Qualified staff with the right technology.
All in all, it is these three key points that you need to focus on. Identification and recognition of needs occurs at the stage of idea creation. Speaking about financial support, at first all costs are borne by the company that needs innovation and/or investors. However, in the future, if the project proves successful, it will not only pay back the investment, but also bring in a surplus profit. Thus, it can be concluded that the value of an idea grows as it is commercialized, brought to the markets: the more they are, the higher the cost of the idea itself.
Step 3: Implement
When the idea is formed and the innovation strategy is approved, the time comes for the implementation of the innovation project. This process consists of the following steps:
Preliminary (pre-project) stage
An innovative project is started with an already formed idea or with a search for ways to solve a pressing issue. At the pre-project stage:
- The goals and objectives are formed;
- A team is being created;
- A preliminary analysis of the project is carried out.
Setting goals, compiling a goal tree, developing a system of criteria for projects evaluation in the next stages- all that are tasks of the first step. The listed issues should be reflected in the feasibility study, the main purpose of which is to provide arguments for the significance of the proposed project, including from the economic side. This initial step determines the directions for the implementation of the following steps.
Development of a business plan for an innovative project (design)
At this stage, the results of previous activities are brought to a specific action program for the creation and launch of a new product on the market. By the beginning of this step, the expected result should be obvious. If necessary, a research is carried out. Before the start of financial investments for innovation creation there are marketing and patent research carried out, the issue of protecting intellectual property is being addressed, preliminary technical analysis and the search for engineering solutions are initiated. The organizational form of the activity to create innovation is determined: the implementation of the activities of the existing company, the creation of a new unit, the establishment of a separate enterprise. At this stage, all the work should be directed to the preparation of innovation projects main document, its business plan. If third-party investments are requested, it is mandatory to conduct an examination of the business plan, which by specialized agencies. When financing from your own funds, you can limit yourself to internal testing if you have the appropriate experts.
Design and technological stage
After completing the initial documentation, it’s time to start developing a product or technology. To do this, carry out experimental design and research and technological development (RTD), conduct the necessary technical and other tests, certification. During the RTD, design and technical documentation is developed. Depending on the capabilities (availability of equipment, personnel), these works can be carried out either on our own or by third parties. RTD allow us to evaluate the technical feasibility of obtaining the expected product. Some work flows from one stage to another. So, for example, during this step, questions may also arise about the protection of intellectual property. The result of the activities should be a prototype. With this in mind, it is advisable to “check the clock” - to compare the intermediate result with the planned one. You may need to conduct additional research, including marketing, regarding the existing prototype of the future product. RTD is a decisive stage, on the results of which the further implementation of the project depends. A prototype means the transformation of the search and research stage into the production stage.
At this stage, an innovative project is already becoming an investment and is associated with the organization and development of the implementation of a particular product, technology, service. This step, although less risky, requires significant financial injections. Depending on the scale of work and the level of novelty, the implementation of the project can mean both some changes in the current structure (additional equipment, expansion of functions, staff training), and the organization of processes from scratch. In the latter case, separate rooms, personnel, equipment supply, engineering services, and training of specialists are also required. After experimental testing, the innovation is introduced on a full scale, or, if it is supposed to be released to the market, it goes to the next level.
If the innovation involves the sale of a product on the market, the stage of commercialization begins, that is, the process of bringing development to the user. Commercialization justifies the risks and costs of completing the previous steps. It is important to pay enough attention and resources to competent marketing in order to achieve the planned cost-effectiveness. To sell goods on the market does not mean to complete the work. It is also important to get feedback from the user.
This algorithm of the innovation creation process is quite generalized. Projects differ in scale, level of implementation (by a private company or at the state level), type of innovation (product or technology, method, solution). In some projects, some steps are absent, in others - they are carried out in parallel, in others additional ones appear. In many respects, the development success depends on a team of executors and professional innovation management, which is able to save the company from unreasonable expenses and unpromising developments, and among the mass of inconspicuous projects to single out those that, if properly managed, will be able to bring the company to a new level.