The most fundamental reason innovation is so hard is that everyone speaks a different language when it comes to innovation. An idea from someone on the factory floor will sound like gibberish to someone in marketing and finance will not fund an opportunity unless they can see thing in dollars and cents.
From my experience, an idea goes through nine stages of translation, before it is launched into the market.
The translator can make his or her job much easier by creating a clear set of questions to be answered at this stage. At Geofabrics, we use a simple Google form, which employees can save as a shortcut on their phones. Anyone submitting an idea needs to answer the following questions;
Translate the idea into what it will look like as an actual innovation. Early product/market fit determinations will take place at this stage. I tend to use a lean startup type approach here. Before an idea goes through this process, it's really just an exploration project.
Translate the idea into a vision for what it will become. The vision of the idea needs to be portrayed in order to motivate key partners.
Congratulations, you have a real opportunity to work on! By "product", I'm referring to any IP that will come from the project, be it an actual product, a service or a process improvement.
Translate the opportunity into financial terms to gain buy-in from the people who divvy up the dough. I have reconnected with my inner spreadsheet angel and really enjoy this part, but I can understand that this might be the most annoying part of this whole process for some people. A solid financial model that you can run a scenario analysis through it pure gold in the land of accountants.
Depending on your manufacturing process you may choose to outsource this work to conserve internal time and resources and help prioritise prototyping.
Different to the initial Opportunity Evaluation, where we may speak with a handful of potential customers to assess whether this is indeed something they even want, we are looking to refine the value proposition of the product.
Translate the product so it appeals to a wider market.
How should we sell this? What processes should the sales team undertake?
The above steps can be broken down into "Champion" Stage (steps 1-4) and "Doing" stage (steps 5-9). And there you have it.
Ben has heard all the buzzwords often attributed to discussions around building an “innovative culture”. Is innovation merely an ideas-boom, or is it the result of those ideas once they become actual things? Why is innovation so hard to do? What is the best way for employees to collaborate on innovative projects? Is there even a “best practise” everyone can aspire to?
Ben is on a mission to translate innovation. With a Masters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Ben is currently the Innovation Manager for Geofabrics Australasia. Acting as entrepreneur, evangelist, coach, mentor, analyst, communicator and manager, Ben sees his chief function as translator; translating the different languages of marketing, sales, finance, production and executive-speak to enable ideas to evolve into real innovations.