innovation process,pipeline

Can You Drive Innovation As A Sales Pipeline?

In Ideation, Innovation, News, People engagement, Uncategorized by Gert Askes

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Can You Drive Innovation As A Sales Pipeline?

- You can drive your Innovation process as a Pipeline. Once everyone is thinking about ideas and that theirs might actually move the company, you get the whole company effectively engaged in the innovation -

Recent Harvard research as published in HBR shows that you can!

An analysis covering 154 public companies with total over 3.5 million employees using an idea management system showed that innovation is, indeed, a science. And that a successful innovation program is independent of the kind of innovation a company is looking for, whether they’re asking for process or product innovation, independent of the industry the company is in, or even, for the most part, whether the company is large or small. The employees use the system functions a little like Facebook – they can post ideas, get votes, deliver or respond to feedback, and develop the ideas into innovations that make a difference to the company. The innovation teams at these companies use the system to track and process all the ideas and whether the company committed to putting them into practice. Some companies focus on process innovation; others develop new products; others seek efficiencies and cost savings.

The key variable

Once you put innovation into a system like this, you can track everything. You know how many innovation challenges the companies are running, how many people are suggesting ideas, and how many ideas they suggest. You know how many people are participating in other ways – by voting or making comments, for example. And you also know how many of those ideas get through the endpoint of the challenge, which is where the company’s management determines which ideas to pursue further.
The key variable that was identified in the Harvard analysis is the ideation rate, which is defined as the number of ideas approved by management divided by the total number of active users in the system. Higher ideation rates are correlated with growth and net income, most likely because companies with an innovation culture not only generate better ideas, but are organized and managed to act on them.

There are 4 variables that drive the ideation rate:

  • Scale – more participants. To succeed, an innovation program needs lots of participants. It’s the wisdom of the crowd: a large mass of participants will always out-ideate a small group of smart people. On average, companies generate one idea for every four participants in the system.
  • Frequency – more ideas. To get to a set of promising ideas whose implementation would make sense, you need to sift through a lot of candidates. To succeed, a company needs to create frequent idea challenges for its employees. These challenges reinforce a culture of innovation and generate more ideas going into the pipeline. While there is a great deal of variation based on the types of ideas and the companies reviewing them, on average, it takes five idea candidates to generate one idea that the company judges to be worth implementing.
  • Engagement – more people evaluating ideas. It’s not enough to get some people suggesting ideas. You need lots of other people figuring out whether those ideas are worth working on, or what it will take for them to become better. A successful idea management system is a ferment of commentary, with lots of feedback.
  • Diversity – more kinds of people contributing. You might think the most productive innovation system would be full of engineers or other problem-solvers. You’d be wrong. A successful system needs contributions from all over the organization, especially staff who are close to the front lines: sales staff, support workers, or people in close touch with the company’s manufacturing processes, for example.

When a program like this is working, it churns out actionable innovations at a steady and predictable pace. Just like a well managed Sales pipleline churns out orders. When you treat ideas systematically with an appropriately designed system, you can manage the pipeline of those ideas. That pipeline engages the employees who best know how to solve the problems of the business, and generates a predictable stream of innovations. Those innovations drive the business forward.

So like Sales, you can drive your Innovation process as a Pipeline. Engaging and including as many people as possible. Once everyone is thinking about ideas – and imagining that their cool concept might actually move the company – you get the whole company effectively engaged in innovation. And in the Internet era, with the pace of innovation always accelerating, understanding the science of innovation could make all the difference in your ability to compete. 

Gert Askes

Gert Askes

Passionate about leadership, engagement and change. Understands today’s leadership pressures, dilemma’s, balancing acts and governance issues that leaders are faced with in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

Bright thinker, quick in analyzing, and intuitively knowing the solution. Deep experience in leadership, strategy, acquisitions, integrations, commerce, supply chain, business development, culture and engagement. Leading and transforming large corporate organizations on a national and international scale. Extensive C level experience on national and European level in several positions. Currently holding 2 Supervisory positions.

His personal journey has shown him the beautiful gift of going from control to trust. These insights, combined with his understanding of the business challenges, makes Gert an excellent sparring partner.
Gert Askes

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