Great innovation is not just about great ideas. To get new ideas off the ground, you need executive buy-in and funding. You can increase the likelihood of success by building the executive buy-in for the innovation process, and by knowing what the CEO and other stakeholders are seeking in order to approve and fund your ideas. Here's how you can find great new ideas and establish rigor in the process that will win support and funding.
1. Frame the business issues and selection criteria
There's no point in starting an innovation effort without understanding the most pressing problems and most compelling opportunities facing your executives. You need to make sure your innovation process yields ideas that address top priority problems and opportunities. Otherwise your executives may doubt the value of the innovation process and withhold support for any ideas generated.
Raw business issues:
"How can we appeal to the older generation?"
"Is there an opportunity to serve students (K-12 and college)?"
"Can we serve our existing customers and new groups with the same products?"
High level business issue for the group: "How can we find and develop opportunities for expanding our customer demographics and will this require new product offerings?"
A detailed example of the business issues graphic and roll-up into high level issue statements can be viewed in this case study
2. Use the business issues framework to extract ideas
By capturing the business issues and criteria for evaluating ideas, you can then target your ideation efforts to extract the right ideas and solutions. The objective of this session is quantity (don't worry, you'll be evaluating for quality later). Typically, a half-day session will generate 100+ ideas. We recommend gathering a diverse team so that all business issues are covered (e.g. if identifying new markets is a concern, invite someone from marketing). The ideal group size is 7-8 people with a facilitator, which will generate creative energy from the diversity yet still let each person contribute. The session is typically organized as follows:
3. Refine, score, and develop the top ideas
The ideas extracted in the session will require additional refinement and evaluation. First, you will need to ensure the ideas are written in a way that they are easy to grasp as you review them, then you will need to apply the criteria in order to rank each idea. Finally, you will need to identify the "top" ideas that warrant further evaluation. Here is what we recommend:
4. Select business case candidates from the top ideas
At this point, you want to bring executives back into the process to decide on which of the leading ideas to take forward into formal business cases. You'll find that they have a much higher level of interest and support for the process, since they are confident the direction and scope were correct from their input. Also, they now have a stake in the outcome since you are solving their problems! You can expect to get approval for 2-3 business cases out of about 10 leading ideas.
5. Mine your ideas for potential intellectual property
These ideas are assets of the organization and should be considered for protection as intellectual property (IP). Hopefully your IP strategy will dictate how you manage ideas and how they are protected. In the absence of that, start with a preliminary review of each idea – probably with an IP Manger – to assess its importance to the business and whether the company would want to protect it.
This approach to innovation is simple yet systematic and designed to focus the inherently creative and unbounded innovation process so that it is driven by business needs. By establishing a close engagement with executives throughout the process, you ensure executive buy in and will increase the likelihood of success rate in getting support and funding for your best ideas.
ipCapital Group, Inc. (ipCG) specializes in the strategic use and management of innovation and intellectual property. To help improve your success in getting ideas funded or learn more about this process, contact us at 802-859-7800 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help by running this process within your organization, coaching you, or training your team on how to do this.