Your Innovation Program in 2019: Strategy and Tactics – 2/3

group of employees circled around documents reviewing information

With your innovation goals set, its time to start scoping out your projects and how you'll go about completing them.                                                 

Trae Tessmann|
January 9, 2019

2019 has brought your organization new energy to focus on innovation and a new set of goals that you’re looking to hit. But how are you going to achieve them?


Saying you’re going to be more innovative will only get you so far. You need to do a few things first, and continue to do others on a consistent basis. As with most things in the business world, the permission (or ability) to be more innovative and make real change inside your organization starts at the top.



Buy-In from Leadership


Buy-in to your goals and program is crucial to getting the resources and time necessary to bring your projects to life. If you’re the SVP of Innovation leading the charge for change and improvement, excellent (and great to meet you!) but if not, you might have to “earn” the additional buy-in necessary to push forward some new initiatives in your organization. While you won’t go directly to management and immediately demand funding for your new initiatives, it is something you must be aware of. That said, below we’ll break down the steps you can take to formalize your project scope, create a plan that gets them on board, and how you can take action to bring your project to life.



Targeting specific Changes


As we mentioned before, “innovation” is useless if you don’t have a goal in mind. But now take a concrete look at hitting those goals. What are you doing to actually reach the goals you’ve so carefully laid out? You need to choose a specific solution, initiative, or improvement you’ll be making to your operations to push you closer to that goal.


Don’t forget to involve other people and departments in this process. This is an often overlooked opportunity in innovation, and can limit the scope of the ideas you’re exploring. Sales should have a voice in letting you know what they think about improving revenue, but so should HR and IT. Ask them about your goal and see what they have to say. You never know what ideas people have until you ask. Here are some potential solutions your team could come up with to hit your innovation goals –



Goal – We want to increase service revenue by 10% by the end of Q1.

Potential projects and solutions your team could provide –

  • Launch a new marketing campaign targeting our largest, product-heavy consumers.
  • Develop a new service that can compliment a specific product.
  • Offer our current customers a referral bonus for introducing us to potential customers.


Goal – We want to reduce processing costs by $50,000 this quarter.

Potential projects and solutions your team could provide –

  • Purchase larger carts to move more products from station to station at once.
  • Implement sensor technologies to help us reduce errors and waste.
  • Increase inspection frequency to avoid breakdowns of certain high-risk equipment.


Goal – We want to reduce annual turnover by 5% by the end of the year.

Potential projects and solutions your team could provide –

  • Re-write the new-hire packet to include more information on advancement options.
  • Implement a bonus system based on longevity.
  • Assign mentors to employees in departments that are turnover-intensive.





Trying to make changes can be overwhelming, especially if you’re looking at company-wide improvements that affect different departments and people. To ease the burden, break down your goals into stages and milestones or checkpoints. This may sound like an overly logical or obvious approach, but many times we try to dive directly into our projects and push for completion immediately. This causes two issues – you need a large commitment of time and resources to bring a full project to fruition, and you may be developing something that should be killed or stopped half-way through.


By taking the time to break down your projects into stages and checkpoints, you’re also provided with a better and more efficient system for determining resources, time, and people you need to keep your project moving forward. Work groups can grow at each stage, and if you commit to starting small, you’ll stay agile and have the ability to end projects facing roadblocks before they suck up too much time or resources. We’ll cover this process below.





Hopefully you’re not alone on your innovation adventure. Following up from the stages you’ve outlined, people are crucial to success. It is important to put people in place to help develop your ideas, but to also have people in place to ensure your projects and team members are still on track as well. Essentially you’ll have three “levels” of team members that are accountable for different functions of your project.


  • Tasks – Team members responsible for developing your ideas, including but not limited to market research, customer interviews, prototyping, etc. This group will grow and shrink throughout the life of your project, depending on its scope.
  • Reviews – Steering committees, department heads, managers responsible for reviewing ideas that are being developed, approving them to move forward. Each review group could change to each stage of your development process, or stay the same if your organization is smaller or the project is department specific.
  • Guidance – Mentors and managers that will provide feedback along the way, serving as a consistent source of assistance and direction to help bring your project to fruition. They’ll remain by your side throughout the life of your project, and also serve as “back-up” if you need help bringing on team members, asking for resources, or pushing the approval process forward.



Putting it all Together

Overall, we want to help you get your projects off the ground faster and more efficiently. Below, check out our simple to follow ideation, selection, and development process for your innovation program to follow to get new ideas, approve/kill them quickly, and get to work bringing them to life. You’ll likely skip or duplicate some steps, depending on your project’s scope.


  1. Ideation – Engage your employees, and collect their feedback and ideas on how they would help the organization reach their goals.
  2. Review Process – Select all ideas with high-potential face-value.
  3. Market Research – Conduct rudimentary market research or internal research to determine which ideas have potential and the numbers to back them up. This will include both market data, as well as intrinsic feedback from your potential market and audience via interviews.
  4. Review – Select all ideas that there appears to be a need for and a notable ROI based on your first round of market research. Conduct more research to continue to narrow down your ideas if bandwidth is an issue.
  5. Wire-framing – Depending on the type of project, create a preliminary wire-frame, drawing, description, or example of how the idea will work once implemented.
  6. Review – Select ideas to move forward based on their preliminary designs.
  7. Prototyping – Depending on project type, create an early stage example or crude prototype of your project that you can introduce to fellow employees or customers to get their feedback.
  8. Review – Based on feedback from external parties, determine which projects if any should move forward into development for a larger scale launch.
  9. Soft-launch – Expand on your prototype, and introduce your project, product, service, or enhancement to a customer segment or department within your organization.
  10. Review – Track the results of your soft-launch, and compare them to the KPIs you’ve set forth from your project to determine if full development is possible and profitable.
  11. Development – Further develop your idea into a full-scale solution.
  12. Soft-launch 2.0 – Expand usage of your now complete idea.
  13. Finishing Touches – Make any additional improvements to your solution. Continue tracking your KPIs and speaking with employees and customers to identify potential improvements.



Actionable Tips

  • Creating a meeting schedule can go a long way to holding everyone accountable for your innovation projects. If you can’t meet in person, schedule regular check-ins via Slack or Hangouts, or at least through email where team members must report what they’ve been working on and the progress they’ve made. No one likes meetings, but this will keep everyone aware of the project status.
  • As we said ealier, be sure to involve others not just in developing your project, but also coming up with new ideas and solutions as well. Whether inside your organization or outside, from different departments or locations, different perspectives, especially when combined, can produce new and innovative ways to solve problems and seize opportunities.
  • Whethere you’re using an innovation software or a traditional approach, take notes every step of the way. Innovation is continuous, and the more learning you can do during your projects the better. Not only will it force you and your team to remain attentive, but will provide examples and real-world experiences that can improve your program moving forward, and can serve as a resource for future project-leaders.
  • Don’t be afraid to kill projects. We all want to succeed, but if something isn’t working it’s better to bite the bullet and end the project before it consumes too many precious resources or time. Track what went wrong, and learn along the way to improve the chances of success for your other projects.


About Trae Tessmann

Co-founder of Ideawake

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