Innovation Processes : How to Make Them Work for You.

Winding road symbolising how processes slow us from rushing to solutions.

“We come up with some good stuff in our innovation meetings, but then we don’t find it easy to progress the follow up actions”.

“We struggle to review and select our ideas because they seem to be at radically different stages of development."

“When we re-group after initial idea generation, each of us has a radically different idea of what the concept actually is.”

Just some of the comments that we hear from teams who are working hard on innovation projects, but not achieving everything they want to achieve.

When trying to identify where they could adjust their focus to get better results, one of the first areas I talk to people about, is their use of innovation processes.

Innovation process is the first of the three key elements in Anatellô’s  Complete 3-in- 1 Innovation System, and as such is critical to innovation success.

Many problems in innovation arise because the team is either:-

  • Not really using a process.
  • Not sure where they are in the process
  • Some team members are working in a different part of the process to others.

How can this happen – even among experienced innovators?

There are three key problems that can prevent us from working effectively with innovation proces

Our minds are programmed to get into 'solution mode'.

Human minds are programmed to solve problems.  This means as soon as we understand the innovation challenge, our minds want to rush to solutions. This is great if there is an emergency and we say, just want to patch a hole in the roof, or fix a broken lock.  The solution we come up with will generally work. However, it will probably have been thought of before.

When we are innovating, we are often looking for new ways to solve problems so that we can offer improved benefits to our customers.

In order to do so, we need to SLOW down, the problem-solving part of our brain, and take what we call ‘the winding road’, to get to a fresh solution.

Indeed, a key purpose of many innovation processes, be it TRIZ, an insight process, or scenario planning is to do just that, and slow teams down. Such processes force  teams to take time, so that they arrive at original, ingenious and ultimately, harder working solutions. A solution that will have a  real USP for  ustomers.

People in organizations are often competitive and accustomed to an 'adversarial approach'.

Ever been in an innovation meeting when someone puts an idea forward and then one of the other team members attack it as if their life depended on it and tells you why it won’t work? The original proposer then defends their idea as if their life too, depended on it.

Call it egos, competition, scarcity mentality or what, but it does not help innovation.

Processes can help in such situations, because they create a space so that teams can put  lots of ideas and suggestions  on the table. Then it‘s not just a two-way, head to head  battle.

Processes enable people to build on the ideas of others, so that the outputs are ‘co-created’. An additional benefit of this is that more people feel ownership of the final idea and want to do everything they can to make it succeed.

When the creative energy is flowing and ideas are sparking,  you don’t want to hold anyone back.

This sums up the challenges facing innovation facilitators. They need to get a team of people  to feel comfortable to put forward their ideas, and to ensure the team is enthusiastic about the task they are working  on. At the same time the facilitator needs to be able to hold the team back to complete each stage of the process properly - without killing all that enthusiasm off.

If you take the example of a simple creative thinking workshop, divergent thinking has to come first, that's the making connections, blue sky thinking piece.

A good creative thinking process, well-facilitated,  will ensure that this divergent thinking is completed before the team move into convergent thinking. This is a different type of thinking altogether. It is coming up with specific, actionable ways to deliver the concept.  It is vital that a team know whether they should be thinking divergently or convergently at any particular time.

Tips to work better with innovation process

  • Design an appropriate process before the workshop/project begins
  • Know that process and how much time is allocated to each phase.
  • Get some training in facilitation skills or hire a good facilitator for your innovation sessions.

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