Innovation isn’t a one-time project. It’s a continuous activity. Which is why we are seeing numerous organizations adding an innovation department to their company infrastructure. In fact, in a recent survey of our client base, we were surprised to learn that almost 40% of our customers operate out of a dedicated innovation group.

We’ve also noticed that innovation also moves through a cycle with a repeating set of activities, goals, and outputs. That cycle includes six basic steps.

Identifying a Problem to Solve. Successful innovation programs are not only great at generating solutions, they excel at identifying problems. Identifying problems requires that organizations take these four steps to prepare for problem solving: gather & organize existing information, reframe and ask why, set expectations, and identify what success looks like.

Identifying a Process that Works For You. Should I use design thinking or six sigma methodology? Having a process for sharing, identifying and selecting great ideas is what makes innovation a repeatable (even predictable) practice. Get an overview of the different options available to you and figure out which one works best for both your organization, but also for this unique innovation initiative.

Engaging Others in the Process. Employee engagement, open innovation – the future of innovative thinking requires that you reach out to the collective intelligence surrounding you. But how do you get people to share their ideas? How do you keep them coming back to build on the ideas of others? What sorts of incentives motivate creative participation? Every innovation push needs to include a communications plan.

What Must You Do When Creating a Virtual Innovation Lab?What Must You Do When Creating a Virtual Innovation Lab?

Adopt a platform, provide experienced mentors, connect teams prior to events (and afterwards), and more. Find out other tips about creating your own virtual innovation lab by downloading this infographic.

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Empowering Groups of People to Build Ideas into Projects. When it comes to turning great ideas into great projects, it’s important to build teams of people that will help steward it through to completion. They need to refine ideas, do research, find collaborators, and more.

Evaluate and Prioritize. Your organization has lots of great ideas, but you only want to move forward with the best ones, the ones most in line with your organizational goals. How do you funnel ideas through a process that helps you evaluate and identify the ideas that will deliver the highest ROI?

Idea Implementation. The best programs have been anticipating this step from the beginning. You’ll need to have buy-in, organizational allies, and creativity in marshalling resources. This is the most important step, of course, in your innovation program. If you don’t implement, then it’s not innovation.

As you can see, IdeaScale created a six video webinar series that walks innovators through each of these steps. What other stages do you struggle with in your innovation program?

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.

Featured image via Unsplash.