Corporate Innovation Process


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The attached document describes a robust process of supporting innovation within a large corporation.

The document is an executive summary of a slidedeck of the same name (also on slideshare).

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Corporate Innovation Process

  1. 1. Executive Summary<br />Purpose<br />The purpose of the attached document is to describe a robust process of supporting innovation that demonstrates an understanding and ability of the writer for contributing to a developing innovation program.<br />Format<br />Stages of the innovation process follow the metaphor of the development of a fruit-bearing tree: preparing the community of idea-bearers (“Tilling”), identifying and communicating potential sources of innovative ideas (“Soil”), collecting and evaluating ideas (“Seeds”), expanding the idea to find its ideal form (“Nurture”), assessing the idea’s market-entry potential (“Prune”), planning the idea’s implementation and operations (“Grow”), launching the business and managing its growth (“Produce”), and reaping the benefits (“Harvest”).<br />Elements of each stage are detailed along with corresponding support programs. <br />Content<br />Tilling. The process begins with preparing the community (or in this case, employees) by providing context, motivation and support for community—all centered on entrepreneurship and innovation. The corporate innovation group is introduced along with its purpose, service, and points of access. Communicating a shared definition of entrepreneurship and innovation across the community facilitates knowledge sharing. Motivation comes from the employees’ understanding of potential rewards of pursuing an idea and assurance that leadership desires and will recognize such efforts. A community of entrepreneurs will boom with new ideas, knowledge sharing, and reinforced motivation; thus, online and live forums for entrepreneurial employees ought to be provided. <br />Programs that serve the purposes of this stage focus on communicating the new opportunities associated with the pursuit of new ideas and educating employees on the proper communication of an idea and the fundamentals of business that must be accounted for in an idea.<br />Soil. Employees and the evaluators of ideas would be served well to learn what events spark true innovation. General sources of innovation can be taught, ideally with emphasis on the characteristic events of each type. Within the family of companies are resources and competencies that could be leveraged by new employee ideas; this source of innovation is particularly exciting as those ideas may add new value to an existing asset, leverage a complimentary asset that is protected from competition, or pluck a low-hanging-fruit business opportunity with minimal resources expended.<br />Programs that serve the purposes of this stage focus on the sources of innovation and the events employees can look for to find new, promising ideas; and extensive business model analysis of the family of companies which can expose opportunities that build off of highly accessible resources and competencies.<br />Seeds. Ideas communicated in brief written or spoken forms can be collected in competitive and noncompetitive formats that focus the energies of employees to articulate ideas and provide employees a platform to develop their ideas. After collection, ideas require evaluation for necessary business elements, potential for success, and any other criteria deemed important. <br />A quarterly outreach program will incorporate these elements.<br />Nurture. Ideas can be expanded upon and revised into the most ideal form by expanding the need and technology aspects and weighing the various combinations of form-factors and uses to find the most ideal version of the idea. For a given need, community research is conducted, focused on those having and surrounding the need met by the idea. For a given technology, features and effects of technology must be translated into corresponding benefits according to various needs. Value chain analysis can be used to determine the best business model for the idea based on principles of market entry strategy. Some ideas can and should be produced in rough form at this stage to aid in community research and idea refinement.<br />Programs that serve the purposes of this stage focus on idea expansion that accounts for needs, technology effects, and business model; also, the capability to develop mock-ups of ideas would be valuable.<br />Prune. Ideas can be further evaluated prior to the writing of a business plan. Assessment based on the size and behavior of the target, the growth trend of the market as a whole, the ability of an innovator to make money in that industry (appropriability), the readiness of the team to accomplish the critical success factors of the business.<br />A program that serves the purposes of this stage focuses on the assessment of the micro-market (target market), the macro-market (market trends), the industry (appropriability), and the team.<br />Grow. At this stage, the planning of the business’s implementation and operations is condensed into a formal business plan. The document and Program Champion must be “pitch-ready” for its appraisal for funding and development conducted by the Head of the corporate innovation group and associated reviewers. An array of experts covering the domains of the business plan would be organized and made available for consultation. <br />The corporate innovation group would work closely with Program Champions at this stage. Modest investment in prototype development could prove desirable for demonstration of merit for follow-on funding.<br />Produce. The business is launched. The corporate innovation group houses the business, working with the Program Champion and team through growth and towards profitability. As the business stabilizes, the corporate innovation group can become more hands-off and focus on other businesses in progress.<br />Harvest. The business becomes a source of new revenue, either through liquidation from a merger or acquisition or as a standalone division. Even if the business fails, the employees have learned valuable skills and those involved gain a greater ability to recognize and seize new opportunities for the next time around.<br />References<br />This process description was created by the writer based on a combination of processes and programs used at the University of Michigan, Detroit incubator Bizdom U, and drawing from personal experience.<br />