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What are ‘idea pathways’?

Posted 6 years ago

Can a process idea and a product idea follow the same pathway?

Stage gates are integral to most innovation systems, but many organisations fall into the trap of relying on one stage gate process to be all things to all ideas.

At IIG we use an idea pathway approach which recognises that we are dealing with an equation of idea + implementation = an innovation outcome.

Effective implementation requires unique activities to be developed that respond to each type of idea. For example:

  • Product-related ideas need a range of activities such as physical prototyping, assessment of manufacturability, market assessments, etc.
  • Service-related ideas require extensive reviews of delivery activities and value demonstration activities.
  • Process-related ideas need systems prototyping, efficiency assessments and outcome assessments before the wider roll-out.

As different activities are required to collect data that informs decision-making, shouldn’t the stage gate process also suit the type of innovation?

A related issue that we come across is how ideas enter innovation systems. Many organisations are using hackathons, ideation workshops and technology scouting activities to feed the front end of their innovation programs.

The first stage gate, however, regularly knocks out ideas where there is not enough information to make a decision. ‘Safe’ ideas are generally progressed through the first stage gate. More ‘out there’ ideas are generally parked due to a lack of information; and unfortunately, this is where many of the ‘gems’ are lost.

Instead of parking, maybe there is another pathway. At IIG, we focus on efficiently gathering information that aids decision-making and part of this recognises that managers are often their own worst enemy when it comes to gathering knowledge on new ideas.

So, when developing or assessing the performance of your innovation program, it might be worthwhile to re-think the value of different idea pathways as well as how different types of ideas enter those pathways.

Impact Innovation Group can help you map successful innovation pathways. Want to know more? Contact us.