Research Within Innovation Processes

Innovation is often perceived as difficult to formalise into a process, but I beg to differ. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that idea generation and creativity is hard to order in a process. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be clear on how we approach it, where we go for input and knowledge, and what the various stages of the journey are. I recently completed the Managing Systems and Processes module of my Henley MBA journey and addressed the issue of research within the innovation process. Let me share with you the 3 key considerations I focused on.

1. Are you clear on your process inputs?

Although idea generation in innovation often happens in an informal manner, being clear on where you gain your inputs is key. If we go on “gut feel” we will likely miss other inputs which might provide us with a perspective we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Taking the time to pin down where we go, and leveraging those sources, will give us a better shot at success.

2. Do you differentiate your incremental- and radical innovation processes?

The type you are striving for is an important consideration for how you structure the process. In most cases, we strive for both continuous improvement (incremental) and ground-breaking changes (radical). Incremental innovation allows for a flow-type structure (think Waterfall project implementation) but radical innovation flourishes in a structure that allows more iteration and change (think Agile project implementation). The trick is to pin down these two processes so that you give each type its best shot at success.

3. Do you allow knowledge to flow into, and out of, your innovation process?

This is an interesting tug-of-war we need to be mindful of. One the one end we want to give our process the best chance to succeed. Which often means bringing in experts to help. On the other end, we want to protect our innovations by keeping it inside the organisation. Generally, incremental innovation aligns well to internalising knowledge flow. Radical innovation, however, aligns better with allowing external knowledge to flow in (with some knowledge then flowing out as well).

What is your take on these?

Thanks for your time,


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