4 Stages for Innovation Refinement

If you’re in charge of innovation, it means that you’re constantly being surprised. Not just because technology and trends are emerging that are impacting your business in new and unexpected ways, but almost every project that you’re working on continues to evolve and improve over time.

You discover unexpected requirements, are impacted by regulations that you’d never encountered before, have to adjust to resource needs and time constraints, etc. So even when you’ve found a great new idea – it’s not going to look the same by the time you’ve launched it. So what are the key inflection points for change in the development of a new idea?

Ideation and Brainstorming. Many groups will build on a new idea right when it first arrives, validating the idea or adding to it. Often it’s combined with other relevant ideas and the crowd can even start offering new requirements and feedback right away, like several simultaneous agile rounds in one.

Proposal Building and Refinement. In this phase, teams are doing deeper research into an idea – how to make it relevant, feasible, and successful. Best practices are gathered and new themes are explored. During that research, the idea will often change significantly so that it aligns to organizational objectives, capabilities, or to accommodate market shifts or needs.

Evaluation. This isn’t a very common practice, because ideas are often evaluated as whole or completed projects with a great deal of information attached to them. However, sometimes when an idea isn’t performing well in evaluation, team members will retool the idea to help improve its score.

Prototyping and Testing. This can change an idea entirely, because putting the rubber to the road often shows the possibilities and failings of a new idea. Once you have conducted a few tests, you learn a lot more about what is possible and what you have to change.

This was certainly true of an idea that New York University’s Administrative Management Council was exploring based on employee feedback. The original suggestion began as a sick time buy-back process improvement but turned into a community benefit idea where employees could donate their sick leave to other employees in need of it and then others in the crowd built out the project by sharing their own feedback and best practices from other universities with a similar program.

To learn more about NYU’s crowdsourcing employee engagement initiative, download the full case study. 

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

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