This time of year is full of meetings with leadership and teams in order to help them prepare for the year ahead. People discuss financial goals, sustainability goals, profitability targets, customer success metrics, and more, but there are also numerous research & development teams out there who are coordinating their annual innovation strategy who struggle in their process to create a cohesive innovation strategy.

There are a few key activities that help in the innovation planning process:

Review the past

Don’t expect this year to look like a repeat of last year – just try and search for lessons learned.

Take stock of the previous year (and beyond). What changes have you embraced as a company, where are you lagging what are your barriers? Oftentimes reviewing the past helps us plan for the future, but don’t forget that innovation is an oft-changing beast that requires infinite adaptability. Don’t expect this year to look like a repeat of last year – just try and search for lessons learned.

Set goals

Next, try to think about where it’s most important for you to introduce significant, positive change in the year ahead. This means thinking about the quick-win incremental change that helps move your current offering ahead, but also tracking emerging trends and reading the overall landscape to find out what other more transformative changes you’ll need to be planning for, as well. Try and identify your large and small wins that you want to celebrate that year.

Prepare for roadblocks

Everyone has encountered barriers to change at their organization. You know what they are (lack of new ideas, lack of resources for implementation). Try and head them off now by getting buy-in and assigning budgets. You can also read the five most common roadblocks to innovation in this infographic.


There are numerous processes and methodologies that can be used to find new ideas and deliver on them. Choose a process that works for you. One of the most common, high-level workflows includes a five-step process:

  1. Ideate
  2. Refine & Connect the Most Promising and Popular Ideas
  3. Evaluate Completed Ideas Against Organizational Objectives
  4. Fund Best Ideas with Time & Resources
  5. Develop

For a complete annual innovation strategy workbook, download IdeaScale’s complimentary white paper on the subject.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.