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Innovation Processe:Foundations for Creating a Preferred Future


Innovation is always a collaborative process. In it organizations and people provide an opportunity to continuously and dynamically re-create themselves in a way that is congruent with an ever-emerging future. Ideas for innovation come from many places and include the negative forces and pressures both internal and external which create the conditions for innovation. However, innovation is also a discipline. While ideas are critical to the success of any innovation, a disciplined organized and systematic process is critical to ensuring a viable outcome for ideas and creativity.

If an idea is to move away from merely a wish or a hope, it is important for it to be disciplined by good structure and process that can assure the idea has direction and that a strong foundation is laid to sustain it. It might be important at the outset to identify what we know innovation is not:

·         No innovation is sustained unilaterally. Individuals cannot single-handedly drive and control in innovation and expect positive results and a sustainable outcome. The old traditional “hero” idea of an individual struggling against the world with an idea that he or she holds a loan against all opposition is simply a myth. Real innovation cannot be developed or sustained single-handedly.

·         Innovation means more than just creating, planning, or discussing ideas. While ideas are a critical part of the innovation process, in themselves, they are not sufficient to result in a useful innovation. Ideas are just that, ideas. What serves as the difference between an idea and innovation is the work that results after the idea takes shape and goes through the processes necessary to make it successful.

·         Sustainability and innovation is the result of hard work. While hard work is important, work alone is not enough to assure the success of an innovation. The work of innovation must align all of the stages and elements necessary to make the innovation process work and to lead in that direction where there is a viable product or outcome for the innovation. It is the convergence of relevance in the wind action advances the potential for successful innovation.


Innovation is always the result of a collaborative process. The innovation dynamic or process involves gathering stakeholders together within a framework that can positively contribute to each stage of translating an idea into action and /or product. Team process is the usual format for successful innovation. What is critical to the team’s ability to build towards a successful innovation are the interactions and processes that they undergo on the journey toward making an innovation successful. The innovation process is not limited to simply creating new or originating ideas but can also relate to expanding, rethinking, or reconfiguring existing processes and products in new and different ways. The important elements of innovation is that something new and useful results that makes a difference in the lives to which the innovation is directed. Those who were involved in innovation are willing to challenge existing thinking and processes and, more importantly, are willing to do something about them.

At the same time, it should be understood that diversity is essential to creativity. While collaboration is important it simply doesn’t just happen. Using techniques and methodology, innovation facilitators move diverse people and ideas through a process that helps refine them and firm them up in a way that will result in a desirable and viable innovation.

The Seeds of Innovation

Ideas are generated constantly. Sometimes they are the result of formally structured processes other times they are accidents or incidents of thought and other times they are the results of attempting to respond to challenging or changing circumstances. For ideas to take form they generally fall on fertile ground which is represented by any particular desire or need for them. Sometimes the ideas respond to the need for change. Other times ideas of the response to the desire for something new and different. Whatever the source ideas that move closer toward innovation are usually those that are informed by a purpose which responds to the action of people willing to advance that purpose. Often the pressure of changing circumstances, whether positive or negative, creates the conditions that result in fertile ground for ideas becoming innovations.

Often ideas are generated because of constraints, challenge, or difficulty for people and organizations. These challenges can be driven by changes in the external environment, or even crises in the internal environment. Many times ideas are generated as a way out of conditions and circumstances that are unacceptable or untenable to the people experiencing them. Many times creative ideas result from new thinking about old processes or products that are either fading in their effectiveness or simply no longer viable or reasonable. Accidental discovery or revelation can often result from reflection and action taken on completely unrelated issues. Yet, when applied to other circumstances ideas which would otherwise be untenable provide a great opportunity for problem solving or for pursuing new directions, processes, or products. Whatever the source of an innovation, in the hands of positive and purposeful people, these ideas take form and under the direction of good critical process are translated into useful processes and products that ultimately change things.

It is important to recognize that innovation is often associated with challenging and changing paradigms. Paradigm shifts often mean a significant adjustment in reality and in people’s perceptions of their lived experience. When things are no longer working are operating as they always have, clear indications of shifting paradigms associated to structural or circumstance changing in a way that people can no longer sustain and be successful. Frequently, it is during crisis and challenge or even in untenable circumstances that many creative ideas lead to meaningful mechanisms that positively change organizations, people, processes and products in a way that dramatically engages a different future. Companies like Google, Apple computers,, etc. provided ample evidence of emerging business practices reflecting new uses for technology and the establishment of new premises for doing business and for the relationships engendered in their changing approaches.

Critical to the innovation process is the ability of people and organizations to abandon those things that, while at one time very successful, are either no longer relevant or have been eclipsed by newer technologies and emerging realities. As a result, different policies, protocols, practices, and products must arise in a way that enables people and organizations to continue the trajectory towards success and future viability. Without abandoning the status quo or existing models, many ideas simply die on the vine and never move toward the discipline of innovation sufficient enough to translate them into something that makes a difference and reflects relevance in an emerging age. New thinking, rules, practices, and processes often newly describe the approaches that would be necessary to take ideas from conception into formation. Having the capacity to think within the context of the emerging paradigm rather than of the diminishing paradigm is often one of the most critical elements of assuring the success of an innovation.

Blockages to Innovation.

Judging from the number of new ideas that never see the light of day, there are many ways to block or prevent ideas becoming real and useful innovations. Attachment to current and past reality is perhaps the first major block demonstrating a lack of readiness for innovation. Attachment to rituals routines and past practices is perhaps the most dangerous single impact affecting the potential for innovation. Health care is especially burdened with structural and practice barriers that have powerful precedence and history resulting in standardized practices, rituals, and routines which act as solid walls against the emergence of new thinking in different practices.

Attitudes play a major role in affecting people and organizations ability to translate ideas into action. Employee passivity and past work group behaviors often create the conditions where new ideas and creative thinking are not encouraged and through lack of facilitation never get generated. People and organizations and systems see their work merely as jobs. Often the same people do not feel ownership of the community within which they work and therefore sense no personal obligation to advancing interests of the organization and moving it creatively forward. Managers also contribute to this lack of creativity through strong hierarchical and controlling structures and practices that limit decision-making, availability of information, and creative response to practical problems. Such attitudes and behaviors on the part of management create a contextual framework which keeps employees dependent, focused on task, process oriented and the way from direct engagement in decisions and actions which would seek newer and more creative solutions.

An organization’s availability to idea generation and openness to point of service involvement and engagement is critical to idea generation and innovation. The work of the organization is continually done at the point of service. It is at that place that the life of the organization is fully engaged. Whatever is possible to occur there is reflected back to the organization. If the attitude and behaviors of the point of service reflect dependence, obedience, passivity, lack of engagement, no ownership, fixation on task and function, and resemble a tightly controlled and ordered system, not much exposure to new and creative ideas results. There is nothing more limiting to the expression of ideas and the movement of innovation and creativity than an inordinate attachment to policy, budgets, practices, protocols, approvals, and work routines. Management leadership must create an environment where ownership, openness, partnership, and engagement are the mechanisms for doing business in the organization. It is only in that kind of environment is there enough freedom and connection between players to stimulate the formation and generation of ideas and translate them into meaningful innovations.

Everyone in an organization or system has the potential to be an innovator. These people depend on the openness and freedom to able to generate thinking in a noncritical, yet evaluating environment. Full participation and ownership of work and related thinking and processes creates the conditions necessary to stimulate idea of formulation and generation and the translation work necessary to move it towards innovation. It is in generating this environment and leadership of innovation that provides the critical backdrop to the innovation process is essential before innovation can even begin in an organization.

Here we are simply covered the backdrop to innovation. What is necessary for the discipline of innovation to even emerge in the organization requires a context and construct in systems that make it possible for innovation to emerge. The conditions for the potential for innovation are even more important than the processes associated with the innovation dynamic. Here is the obligation of leadership to create the context, conditions, and circumstances which provide a frame for the innovation process and assure that the people engaged in it sends the openness and readiness for involvement, investment, personal ownership, and engagement in the life of the organization. Through this level of connection and communication, the organization assures that there is a structure and readiness, and even an availability, to the potential embedded in idea generation and the constant readiness for innovation. Many of the blockages to innovation can be addressed and even prevented through good management process. The innovation process itself begins with the strategic and operational commitment to creating an organization that is open and dynamic, ever responsive to the external and internal “dance” that represents its commitment to its own life and future. Creating the context is the first step in any successful innovation process.

The Innovation Process.

Having spent some time on the background and organizational conditions and circumstances influencing the generation process, it is now time to focus on the dynamic stages of innovation that make up the innovation process. While not a linear process, the dynamics of innovation do call for a particular discipline that requires points of emphasis along a continuum of assuring the movement of idea toward a truly useful and successful innovation.

There are many suggested models are approaches to the innovation process. Most of them enumerate stages that include the generation of ideas, translation of ideas into specifics, the formalization of ideas and to design and potential action, the development of the business plan and trajectory from idea to actual innovation, engagement of the human dynamics in moving the innovation toward success, and a process for evaluating adjusting, challenging, and changing the innovation at a time and as the need requires. Any number of structured approaches can be developed in ways that address these various stages yet; each one of them provides an important component of successful movement from idea to innovation.

Stage 1: Generating ideas.

As stated previously, innovation is purposeful. A successful innovation is generally the product of good design and its related processes. The ability to stimulate good dialogue and purpose-directed idea generation is a critical foundation upon which innovation bills. Clearly there must be a desire or need for the innovation sufficiently clear to translate it from desire to purpose to product. The strategic requirements of the organization for its continuing viability serves as the driving force or the frame for innovation thinking in the conversations related to it. If ideas are to have meaning, participants must drill down to how ideas relate to the integrity and function of the organization and to its general mission and purpose. Without doing so ideas remain simply ideas.

Today innovation is more often thought of as a more radical process directed to significantly altering or changing circumstances affecting organizational integrity and life. While not always radical, real innovation does lead to a dramatic change in process and/or product in a way that alters life and experience. Therefore normal and usual mechanisms often related to quality improvements, process improvement and other quality processes are not generally included in the rubrics related to innovation. This notion that significant or even “radical” change occurs guides the kind of dialogue and process undertaken by organizations in very real ways.

Generating ideas and relationship to specific innovation means undertaking the group process of idea management that helps give form and basic structure to the generation of ideas without limiting the breadth of access to those ideas. While there are a whole host of techniques available to group facilitation process there a number of specific approaches which can be especially helpful in focused and purposeful innovation dynamics.


Perhaps the most important first step in any group dynamic is how the table is set for the processes which the group will undertake. The first step in any series of processes is to make sure that the right stakeholders are at the table. In any idea generation the diversity of stakeholders is a critical first stage and an important step. Planning for who should be present to the innovation process is as important as the process itself. A wide range of stakeholders from abroad number of roles and positions related to the innovation should be included. Innovation dynamics requires a high level of equity and the removal to the fullest extent possible of positional authority and vertical orientation to dialogue. In a series of initiating steps at barrier breaking, rolled challenging, equity producing oral helpful first steps in engaging stakeholders in the kind of medium necessary to generate equity and value driven conversation. Role and position power simply play no part in the successful gathering of appropriate stakeholders who now must equitably engage in idea generation and management in a non-judgmental and nonhierarchical manner.

Creative thinking will require good facilitation and every member playing his or her role fully and well. Some preliminary foundations are necessary as our other process elements and tools (see chapters on directed creativity and transdisciplinary design). Furthermore the following elements are critical to the good facilitation of innovation groups in the first stage of idea generation:

·         facilitators who understand the dynamics of group process and have access to the full range of group techniques and methodologies that stimulate an indication, interaction, idea generation and recording as well as the coalescing and consolidation of ideas into purposeful decisions, actions and processes.

·         The creation of an appropriate space (see chapter on transdisciplinary design) that contributes to focused work, creative thinking, directed dialogue, and focused interaction.

·         Facilitators have the capacity to use methods and tools which assist in breaking blockages, taking down barriers, stimulating the horizontal and mode of thinking and interacting, and moving the process continuously and dynamically towards goal achievement.

·         The necessary tools, materials, and supports are present and available for participants’ access and use with appropriate directions and guides which can assist in an annotation application for a broad variety of idea to innovation activities.

·         Facilitation and member competence can help participants move past performance and current activities as a beginning place for conceptual challenges, confronting best practice, and giving language to shifting paradigms.

·         The innovation group is aware of organizational and senior leadership support for innovation activities evidenced by strategic endorsement of the process and the inclusion of senior leadership in the activities and dynamics of the innovation process.

·         Ideas are captured in form and format to demonstrate full engagement and inclusion with sorting and acceptance processes designed in a way which facilitates the equitable consideration of all ideas regardless of their source.

·         The methods and process associated with idea generation and management are able to successfully move the group toward consensus and consolidation evidenced by the emergence of clear goals which lead to a clarity of understanding, visualization, and articulation of participants around specific innovations emerging from the idea management process.

These foundational elements simply create the gateway for meaningful idea generation and provided a frame for that which is exemplified by good process. Innovation processing has no value if ideas do not become specific, directed, and meaningful in light of their relation to the strategic imperative which drives the organization and its work. Without producing some meaningful and critical outcome idea generation remains stuck use, on directed and nonproductive. It is the goal of the facilitators (most prepared for that role) and the participants that deliverables be obtained and that these outcomes relate specifically to meeting identified organizational purposes, goals, or objectives.

Some Essential Tools.

Visualizing the Future.

Visualizing the future or future-search is a well researched and disciplined process which reflects how diverse idea and thinking groups work cooperatively and collaboratively to view and construct solid visions and ideas related to the construction of preferred futures. It were flocks along stream of the work of social sciences in examining how groups work collectively to do purposeful thinking and processing around unformed ideas and projections about position and movement within an emergent context.. Through use of whole systems interactions and communication processes as well as planning techniques, innovation participants can bring their expertise together in mutual conversation where their resources, communication, format, and values can converge to create meaningful, specific, and concrete decisions, designs, and plans. Through the visualization process those representing the full range of stakeholders related to an issue or present and share stake in the outcome. In addition all layers of understanding and input are considered and visualized or demonstrated before movement towards more specific and narrower ranges of understanding and application. Expectations include accountability for presence, mechanisms for full participation of all participants, and use of all ideas in the process of refinement and convergence around specific trajectories and goals. While future search is one of a number of like techniques the emphasis on the creative and on the “viewing forward” is a critical characteristic that contributes to its effectiveness and success. The strength of future-search techniques and disciplines in the innovation process at the idea stage is:

·         celebration an emphasis on what has already been accomplished in the history of the “journey” to the present and the relationship of the future to the continuum,

·         the use of mind mapping technology which links present conditions, external trends that impact with internal dynamics and identifies those critical elements affecting choice and action,

·         the focus on alignment between present reality and circumstances and the potential challenges, changes, and opportunities being driven by the convergence between external forces and internal dynamics,

·         creation of scenarios and goodness of fit between emerging reality, potential solutions, and ideas created as a part of establishing preferred choices with regard to innovations and outcomes,

·         identification and confirmation of consensus, agreement, and common ground establishes a basis for group identity and commitment to the innovation and aggregates effort around group consensus,

·         The confirmation of, and ground leads to specific action planning and innovation staging that allows the group to begin with form to the subsequent stages of design implementation and transition through the innovation process.

These and similar approaches provide a strong vessel for the creation, translation, and coalescing of ideas toward specific innovation of objectives in an open yet systematic way. The approach depends on skilled and unformed facilitation and broad-based inclusion and contribution of all participants who have a stake in moving successfully through the idea phase toward the next stage of the innovation process.

Mind mapping Tools.

Mind mapping has special implications for idea management and innovation processing. It is an excellent tool in so far as that demand strong integration and consolidation of ideas with synthesis of them in a way that gives a sense of direction and expresses in explicit detail all the elements related to translating ideas and planning or “mapping” the application of ideas in a way that shows their relationship and their synthesis. Mind mapping is a terrific bridge between the idea generation and translation stages in the next stage of innovation processing that takes the more formative phases of the innovation process and gives them clarity and a sense of direction. Special characteristics in consideration of the use of mind mapping in the innovation process are:

·         serves as a great vehicle for brainstorming, coalescing note taking, organizing complex information, creating relational intersections between and among ideas, and more clearly delineating ideas around the specific vision or purpose,

·         mind mapping enables the full powers of brain mechanisms and information management in so far as linear processes and sequencing is avoided and network and Association approaches are used in the management of ideas,

·         concepts can be more fully developed, related, and translated into actionable items and the functional relationship between them can be better established, plus guiding users to more potential direction and application with powerful alignment of ideas generating potential relationships necessary to good design,

·         the full array of related elements, intersections, and interactions can be explored such that duplication, vacancy, or incomplete notions can be easily discoverable and visualized in a way that informs open space and incomplete relationship or design,

·         Contrary to linear processing and work, graphic presentations through mapping can indicate degrees of intensity of relationship and importance and quickly facilitate the selection and rejection of ideas in a way that reflects the relative importance and impact on the innovation trajectory.

Use of mind mapping usually requires the application of mind mapping software especially when a wide variety of complex word numerous bits of information need to be correlated and integrated in one place. However mind mapping is an efficient and effective way of managing ideas, consolidating them and synthesizing them in a way that makes it easier to apply them to decision-making, design, and the subsequent stages of the innovation process. Furthermore, they serve as a record of the journey through the innovation process and of the dynamics of process, change, and adjustment embedded in the various stages of innovation giving the user a chance to evaluate progress and the impact of changes and adjustments.

Brainstorming and Free Form Group Process.

There is a huge array of brainstorming techniques and free-form processes. Rewriting that allows thoughts to flow freely without any constraint; breaking down topical items into constituent idea components; listing and bulleting ideas, notions, imaginations; pursuing perspectives helps enable the sharing of different views on a common idea; to being enables users to consider the notion or idea from six different directions which describe, compare, associate, analyze, apply, who argue for and against any one direction: similes, which allows participants to suggest specific ideas and brainstorm as many varieties where variations on the idea as is possible; and an array of others such as clustering, sharing, webbing, etc. Brainstorming provides a lot of latitude in getting many ideas out on the table quickly and effectively free of judgment or assessment. Some of the unique considerations with regard to brainstorming are:

·         Free-flowing and open non-judgmental thought and communication is a centerpiece of brainstorming requiring an open process the specified time limit.

·         Important to brainstorming is maintaining focus even though critique is suspended and broad-based idea generation is a requisite,

·         Brainstorming expresses value insofar as it suspends judgment, encourages free-flowing of ideas, is not limited by quantity, and ideas can be directly related to each other.

·         Brainstorming sessions usually generates connection, relatedness, good interaction, and builds collaboration and purpose-identity around the room

·         while brainstorming requires a great deal of ideas sorting it does increase the potential for getting ideas out that might not otherwise be generated in a more controlled or directed process.

Brainstorming is a sound initial group activity because of its impact on building more group interaction and in creating a context amenable to continuous idea-generation. It is also one of the more common tools used by groups in directing ideas and getting clarity around worthless ideas lead. Another strength of brainstorming is that it can be used at varying levels of deliberation and dialogue so that’s ideas get more refined and more directional brainstorming subsequent steps in the clarification process can assist in continuing to refine or discern further ideas related to emerging actions or goals.

There are clearly a host of team-based ideas generating and management techniques and methodologies with which good facilitators are familiar. The facilitation process of idea generation and management is critical to its initial success and demands good facilitation and coordination of efforts. Awareness of the wide variety of tools available in a wide range of group process activities is important to the effectiveness of the facilitator, especially in the first stages of the innovation process. With experience and exposure in continual use of various methodologies and techniques, their refinement yields increasingly improving results and allows groups a measure of initial success that helps further stimulate commitment to the process and movement through the innovation stages. Many of these tools and techniques can be characterized as Rogers does as “The Knowledge Stage”. The goodness of fit with his theoretical foundations are demonstrated by the coalescing of ideas around the various kinds of knowledge that will be necessary to translate ideas into innovation (awareness knowledge, how to knowledge, and principles knowledge).

Stage 2: From Idea to Innovation

Using these textbook readers are reminded that ideas contained in any one chapter are dependent on the ideas and processes identified in other chapters. Clearly innovation cannot be successful it is not part of a larger strategic imperative that gives innovation contexts, form, and operational support. Also, all of the input processes necessary to inform the organization needs to be in place with regard to its location in the external environment, it’s internal dynamics, alignment with mission, vision, and goals, the organization’s human capital approaches, resource allocation for innovation, and, finally, the organization’s awareness and availability to innovation opportunity. All of this forms the backdrop and informs the dynamic of innovation in the organization. This is most important that the second stage of innovation where much of the translational work between idea and innovation is undertaken. Here are all the forces mentioned herein operates to inform participants in a way that advances tactics, choices made, and actions taken to act upon the ideas, translate them, and begin the processes associated with action planning. All of these factors can be accurately aligned with the characteristics of an innovation culture. Such culture needs to be promulgated as a way of ensuring and assuring that the potential for real innovation can be realized.

The use of tools suggested in stage I should have helped refine the idea or ideas into a manageable focus leading to better discernment and greater clarity. These decisions will need to be clearly articulated and identified in a way and with the language that participants can clearly identify and through which general consensus and agreement can be evidenced. Those directly involved in the innovation process and choice-making become “champions” for the particular innovation choices. They also become participants in a more focused on specific activities involved in moving from idea to innovation and choice. Several activities are associated with this particular stage of choice making and structuring design:

1.      Ideas have been refined, coalesced, and more specifically directed to clarity around specific choices related to the innovation and its potential.

2.      Consensus processes are used to clearly identify best case scenarios and best practice choices which would lead to more narrowly to a specific innovation.

3.      Innovation choices would be tested against strategic decisions and priorities to determine their goodness of fit with the organization’s mission, vision, and strategic plan.

4.      Clarity with regard to the impact of the innovation, its value and impact on process or product is well defined in this stage and the case made to the organization with regard to the innovation’s viability.

5.      Alignment with issues of resources, timeline, commitments, and activities are clarified as design and planning activities are initiated.

6.      Design elements emerge with regard to specific characteristics of process or product essential to more focused activities which translate idea into specified innovation which informs design.

7.      Metrics are threaded in the design planning and timelines in order to more clearly evaluate staging, progress, costs, viability, and the inevitable annotations and changes.

It is at this point in the innovation process that specificity and clarity begin to emerge with regard to the innovation itself. Not only is the innovation becoming clearer, the image and visualization of the process or product is also clarified. While complete clarity cannot be obtained at this early stage in the process, it can be visualized and characterized in a way that provides an image of its application and use. In understanding important at this stage of the process relates particularly to the developmental and resource costs and challenges in making the innovation work.

Contemporary innovation and design are among the most complex processes, both technically and socially. Elements of human factors, design processes, and indicators of performance (both process and product) must be included as a part of the design infrastructure. As the innovation team moves closer to making concerted decisions with regard to the innovation itself various factors must converge to both inform their strategy and formative work and to move from design to action. Some of the elements that must be specifically addressed at this stage are:

·         When the specific innovation process and activity are more clearly articulated questions related to time demands and timeline become paramount. Since the external environment is constantly changing demand and circumstances the ability of the team to create an innovation in a timely fashion and relevant to the needs and desire for the innovation becomes critical.

·         Budgeting for development and design becomes important in consideration of the institution’s financial plan so that sufficient resources are made available to assure appropriate attention on appropriately unfolding the stages of the innovation process.

·         The human resource energy time and commitment now must be more tightly aligned to the work being accomplished. Those involved in the initial idea and translation stages may not necessarily be the same individuals involved in the design and application faces. Leaders need to be aware of the need for reallocation and re-delineation of appropriate and adequate human resources for this more concrete phase of the innovation process.

·         Increased engagement of the broader array of stakeholders now becomes important to the consideration of implementation in the design process. More stakeholders are implicated in the design and application of the innovation and therefore play a more direct role in either informing or unfolding the innovation.

·         Techniques, methods, and models of goal setting and staging the innovation as it moves from design into action now become important elements of the design process itself.

·         Narrowing and selection methodologies and techniques such as nominal group process helps both narrow and prioritize elements and activities related to specific innovation choices and goals being more clearly established in the stage.

Clearer integration of goals, steps, metrics, and timelines serve as the database for moving through the design phase to the next stages of the innovation process. Here also the products of the mind map in future search activities begin to merge and point in the clearer direction with regard to advising priority decision-making and choice making related to the selected innovation. The convergence mentioned earlier occurs especially at this point and begins to inform the elements of the design phase and more clearly enumerate what actions related to design will be preeminent. Rational and appropriate choices begin to appear apparent and logically deduced from the aggregate of information “float-out” on the flip chart or linked and integrated on the mind map. Simple numeric or symbolic (such as colored dots or highlighters) are often tools that are used to help indicate priority choices and to narrow participant selections.

In addition the most significant barriers and challenges to the choices that are made are also identified during this phase. Here, the analysis associated with innovation choices begins to point out unaddressed concerns, threats, challenges with regard to information, resources, and competencies. As the choices begin to tie it more fully into the strategic and tactical structure and processes of the organization, the various challenges take on more clarity and begin to demand specific responses in order to adequately confront them and to address the steps necessary to either accommodate or change them.

IDEO, an innovations and design firm uses this point in the innovation process to do what they call “deep-dive work. Within the context of their deep-dive they identify for process strategies, learn, look, ask, and try as vehicles for narrowing choice in guiding and informing the clarification process. These four approaches simplify both strategic thinking and planning process into hands-on activities broken down into logical stages that help groups hone their analysis and refinement skills and assist them in making appropriate choices. IDEO uses each phase as a vehicle for thoroughly assuring that all the elements related to an idea which might lead to a potential innovation are worked through carefully and systematically in a way that helps influence good choice-making. Learning refers to the management of information obtained through gathering at, analyzing and integrating it and then synthesizing it in a way that makes sense with regard to particular innovation’s choice. Looking in this process involves high level experiential observation techniques directed to gaining insights from participants experiences including observations of business and customer interactions. Use of questionnaires, surveys, observation tools, and flow diagrams serve as vehicles for honing and refining observations. Here again use of mapping tools can also indicate relationships and flows as participants attempt to get a handle on movement and activities. For IDEO, asking includes a number of techniques directed to obtaining information from a variety of sources, generally users and those associated with their work. A number of techniques and tools can be used such as surveys, analysis instruments, attitudinal assessments, workflow, and behavioral toolsets, depending on the activities or behaviors being assessed. Finally, IDEO isolates trying is the physical activities associated with learning by doing. Here, actual experiences, work processes, real-time analysis, prototyping, and constructing particular vehicles for testing out models or approaches are actually applied in real-time circumstances. Use of scenario, computer models, virtual processes, and prototyping are common vehicles that use real-time opportunities and circumstances to test out ideas, notions, and thinking about particular processes or products. The results of these approaches lend value to the designers and users with regard to interpreting personal experiences and testing out analysis and applications in real and practical circumstances.

Stage 3: Strategy, Planning, and Acting.

The initial stages of the innovation process relate particularly and specifically to the generation and management of ideas in an effort to do identification, clarification, affirmation, and choice work with regard to establishing priorities related to the selection, planning, and application of a particular innovation. As briefly mentioned earlier, such processes are not simply valuable because one does some; innovation processes are valuable to the extent that they make a difference, have an impact, change something. For businesses or services the direction and intent of innovation is to maintain the relevance and viability of the system in a way that fulfills its mission and purpose and achieves something the organization and its users find valuable. All the creative generation of ideas and the initial idea-innovation dynamics and processes mean little if the products of that work don’t in some way make a significant difference and have an impact on the business or service.

The earlier processes, methods, and techniques have been devoted to managing ideas and preparing them for the more formalized processes associated with stage 3 and beyond. While the number of stages identified in an innovation process can be variable (some as few as 3 others as many as 9), they generally point in the same direction with regard to required activities. At this stage, the translation of ideas into innovations and innovations into reality takes place in earnest. Here the planning stages in the elements of planning become critical to the effectiveness of implementation process.

There are several elements related to innovation planning is critical to its success. Here the more fun, imaginative, and “loose” activities become more structured and formalized as this movement from idea to innovation becomes more specific. Planning now involves components usually associated with the strategic process. Some of the elements related to good innovation action plans are:

·         Follow the KISS principle: keep it simple and sustainable. As with most everything in organizations related to the process, a less is always better. Here the innovation team wants to plan objectives and processes that focus the work on making the innovation real and possible and relating it to the vitality of the organization.

·         In action plans related to a particular innovation, steps, actions, and processes should be kept to only those necessary to actually move the innovation in a meaningful way. Emphasis on “good enough” means that participants understand innovation as a process and, thus, realize that enhancement and improvement occurs in the midst of the process. Also, planners note that the vagaries existing in the internal and external relationships in the system often change quickly affecting the innovation trajectory and calling the team to the table to make necessary adjustments. The less the process intensity and effort at creating perfections occurs early in the process, the more likely accommodation to changing vagaries can be successfully made.

·         Old team participants should clearly understand the stages of the innovation planning process and recognize it as a methodology and a discipline. Steps shouldn’t be diminished or skipped by participants or in any other way diminished since doing so creates later challenges to the extent of creating barriers to potential success.

·         Keep in mind that the innovation planning process should continuously reflect mission and purposes of the organization. If emerging environmental or practice realities challenge the success of the innovation planning process because of their conflict with the mission of the organization, strategic questions should be raised with senior leadership and board members in order to assure continuing goodness-of-fit between developing and innovation and its relevance to facilitating the viability of the organization.

·         In the planning process help keep the team focused on the potential for challenge. Since the innovation will likely create significant change in process or product, “noise” can be expected, indeed, should be anticipated. Innovation generally always challenges existing states of being and ways of working. Innovation planning team members should anticipate and expect organizational reactions is a normative part of both plan design and action.

·         As the tactical elements of an innovation plan unfold there is always the temptation to solutions seek early in the process, failing to give the process sufficient opportunity to unfold. Problem solving will be important as a part of the dynamic but is usually the focus of implementing the plan.

·         Remember to pay attention to process metrics and what they say about the challenges and successes as the stages of the plan unfold. Metrics allow the team to develop and use objective tools for assessing and measuring progress. They provide real-time opportunity to evaluate and adjust action in a way that better assures unfolding the innovation plan and maintaining an appropriate trajectory for it. Dependence on the metrics suggest commitment to “managing by fact” and will more directly facilitate leadership in identifying “root” issues influencing plant flow and effectiveness.

·         Keep in mind that users, customers, patients, and other partners are considered stakeholders and, therefore, play a direct and particular role in designing, constructing, and unfolding the implementation plan. It is not solely the leader’s role to participate in design and evaluation. Instead the leader ensures that the right stakeholders play appropriate roles of value in a way that positively affects the innovation plan and application. They also inform the innovation team in ways the team might not access themselves.

Elements of the Innovation Plan

Innovation plans have many of the same elements as any other rational planning process. The key elements of an innovation plan are:

ü  clarity of definition around the specific innovation

ü  needs and desires driving the creation of the innovation

ü  facts and concepts derived from idea phases

ü  clear steps and goals directly related to innovation creation/outcome

ü  process activities associated with innovation plan/trajectory

o   capital resources

o   human resources

o   information resources

o   physical resources

o   technology

o   performance metrics

o   timeline

o   evaluation

Each of these are specific line items in the innovation plan that must be specifically addressed in order to assure that the stages of innovation activity are adequately addressed and fully engaged.

More on the plan of innovation in a future contribution.

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