Improvides Innovation Lifecycle

When discussing innovation, there is no shortage of books and experts who give advice on how to be more innovative, what you can learn from the world’s most innovative organisations, and how to overcome creative hurdles. However, what has not been clear is how to bring a degree of management structure to innovation projects, or how you may be able to run your current projects in a more innovative way.

To address this, Improvides have developed their Innovation Lifecycle, which takes into account best practice learning from a variety of innovative companies, industry experts, academics and successful creative teams. Using it, teams are likely to come up with solutions to real customer challenges in a faster, more efficient way, and be ultimately more valuable. It also helps diverse teams collaborate more effectively, as it facilitates people with delivery skills and those with creative skills to complement each others’ strengths.

First, we need to understand why a standard project lifecycle (generic example given below), is not appropriate to be used on innovation projects:

Standard project lifecycle

A standard project management lifecycle

A project or programme management lifecycle, illustrated above, is often used by projects when managing large, expensive and risky projects, especially based around solutions which have been proven to work. Classic examples are implementations of enterprise IT projects or merging two previously distinct business units. It provides clarity on delivery dates, exactly what is going to be implemented, a structure to test impact, and clear management gateways for review of progress on whether timelines and budgets are being met. However, it is also highly bureaucratic, inflexible in making significant changes to the solution, open to experimentation or good at incorporating feedback on the solution itself. What you are told at the beginning you are going to get is ultimately what will be delivered.

Therefore, for projects (or departments) which are trying to find new solutions to challenges, a more flexible Innovation Lifecycle is appropriate. Importantly, it needs to support the flexibility and feedback mechanisms which take innovative ideas and refine them into the most appropriate solution possible.

At a high level, the primary activities of the Innovation Lifecycle stages are as follows:

  1. Investigate
    • Identify innovation goal
    • Go out and observe customer / market
    • Determine current issues needing solution
    • Determine evaluation criteria
  2. Ideate and Evaluate
    • Generate ideas
    • Critique, refine and build upon ideas
    • Compare against evaluation criteria
    • Decide which ideas to develop
  3. Design, Build & Experiment
    • Design solution to challenge based on ideas
    • Hypothesise experiment to test
    • Prototype, test, determine reason for results
    • Refine design against innovation & evaluation goal
    • Log and share progress
  4. Test Launch
    • Determine parameters for test:
      • Location
      • Timing
      • Online?
    • Involve trusted outsiders
  5. Full Launch
    • Launch as part of full portfolio of offerings
    • Allocate some resources to other projects
    • Some resources continue to evolve and refine offering

What is important to notice is that unlike most lifecycles which are very linear, the Improvides Innovation Lifecycle looks to incorporate learnings from experiments and feedback at each stage. As a design and solution is developed, this will help refine it so that ultimately it is the most appropriate one for the market and addresses customer’s real challenges.

Underpinning this lifecycle for specific projects are also the 3 Dimensions of Innovation, which enable the capabilities of innovation within all parts of the organisation.

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