Julian Jordan

Management Consultant

  • Innovation
  • Life Sciences
  • Energy
  • Legal Sevices
  • Financial Services
  • Public Sector

22 Sep, 2020

Innovating Services, Not Servicing The Idea Of Innovation

We recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Idea Drop Innovation Bootcamp on the topic of Constructing An Idea Evaluation Process. And it spurred many thoughts and ideas for us about how organisations often forget this aspect in the innovation process and its importance. In case you missed it, you can catch up here:

What were the key take away messages?

Innovation offers opportunities to grow revenue and market share through the creation of improved products and services. However, it’s often misunderstood and the success rate of bringing innovations to market is lower than embattled executives would like.

For many organisations the focus has been on generating ideas believing that success will come from a pipeline of new concepts proposed by staff. In reality, these organisations are simply “servicing the idea of innovation, not innovating services (or products)”.

We have outlined some of the key steps in taking ideas through to the next phase of the life cycle and where you might look to develop physical prototypes.

Innovation isn’t magic:
Too often there is an expectation that innovation is a silver bullet; that one brilliant idea will appear and the organisation will become innovative as if by magic. Sadly, fairy tales aren’t real, and it takes clarity and structure to make innovation work, while embedding the necessary cultural changes into elements of the organisation. You need to avoid the common issue with change, where initial enthusiasm and a raft of ideas wanes and innovation is quickly perceived as another fad.

Be clear about your innovation strategy:
It seems obvious, but the feedback we receive regularly from clients is that their innovation strategy is not fully formed and has not been communicated well. Confusion here means effort is being wasted from the start of any innovation activity, limiting the chances of success.

Not every organisation needs to be defining entirely new platforms and disrupting industries, some are happy to maintain a position where innovation sits closer to continuous improvement. Be clear with your organisation about how innovation is managed and funded, what you are looking to achieve and define relevant goals and the associated measures to check your progress.

Set the right challenges:
It is said that there are no bad ideas, and this is true. This is different to generating the right ideas that solve the right problems and present the right opportunities. Organisations have taken innovation to be focussed on the identification of ideas. Particularly now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many organisations are trying to rush the innovation concept to show how their organisation can come up with ideas. To help your employees direct their energies positively towards innovation, ensure challenges align with the priorities for the organisation and focus feedback and co-creation on this alignment.

Define how ideas are progressed:
Innovation isn’t just about generating ideas, innovation is the implementation of ideas into products or services to solve a need, and it is important to define the evaluation process of ideas at scale to ensure you develop out the ones that show the most potential. If your innovation metrics are clearly understood, defining your idea process flow and the assessment matrix is straightforward.

Outline good practices on how an idea is created and developed, how challenges are set, how long ideas remain active and what the review steps will be. Develop your assessment tool to support this process and speed up the filtering activity around ideas and their fit with your innovation goals.

Underpinning this is the need to work openly, clear, and structured, providing feedback on any ideas that are submitted. Some ideas may need to be pushed back for more information, others simple improvement suggestions (do not underestimate the power of these in building corporate/innovation culture) and others offer innovation potential. Keep your audience up to date, maintain plenty of open feedback and offer simple rewards that encourage people to get involved.

Reduce bias:
We know that innovation is not a sole enterprise, it needs a social element to maximise the chance of success. Where possible, use tools to help with co-creation and the evolution of ideas.

When assessing ideas, you need a group who are diverse in terms of experience, background and age. Ideally, mix up the assessing team on a regular basis otherwise the same people with the same biases will develop too much group think and miss the broader view.

When forming your assessing team, don’t just select experts in their function or the most senior people. Look for a mix of:

  • Well-connected people who might be less senior but have strong relationships across multiple teams and functions – these will help you cross-pollinate ideas much more successfully.
  • Enthusiasts who encourage others to try new things, the early adopters who will help champion the idea
  • Influencers who are senior enough to get ideas into play, to lead people to take an idea to the next step and develop something tangible.

Ultimately, getting these elements of your innovation journey right will improve your chances of successful delivery and reduce the likelihood of you “servicing the idea of innovation” rather than doing something about it.

Julian Jordan

Management Consultant

Julian helps businesses solve complex problems through innovating new service offerings and business models. He is passionate about how design can bring benefits to users and how innovation is much more than a check box exercise, and that having the right structures and frameworks in place for your organisation can be the difference between a good idea making it to market or remaining in someone’s inbox. With a background in IT and process analysis, he trained as a business designer and appreciates the cultural and mindset changes needs to effectively combine business and technology change. He leads the Innovation Strategy and Business Design communities within Chaucer.

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