Will Rogers

by Will Rogers


The Six Stages of Innovation

Many times we think of innovation as a gifting that certain people have.  We think of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Einstein, and others… which just leads most of us to think we don’t have that special “gene”.  While there are some people who are exceptionally gifted to innovate and think outside the box, there’s also a process that all of us can use to solve problems and innovate toward a better solution.  


In the past several decades, several pioneers have navigated a path to build processes that have helped countless people work through an innovation process.  This largely began with David Kelley, the founder of IDEO.  Since those early years, others have adopted the process, changed pieces, and renamed things (ex: Stanford University, Google, etc.), but all the while continued the legacy of leading innovation.


Key Principle: Innovation is far more a process than a personal gifting.


So what does that mean for me on a practical level?  Do you ever find yourself working on a project feeling stuck?  Do you ever feel like a project should have more input from others?  Do you have projects that just feel so epic that you’re intimidated by them?  If yes for any of those questions then there’s a good chance an innovation can help you.  Look at this process as a good friend who is going to help you navigate a path to a better solution.  And the amazing part of running an innovation… you’re basically guaranteed a better solution on the other side of the process.  So let’s take a moment to talk through the stages of the innovation process.



The first stage is setting the foundations for your project.  You start by building your scope which includes things like your problem statement, defined WIN, the team to participate, how long of an innovation, what Discovery voices to invite, and general logistics.  Strong scope development helps set up the innovation event for success.  



The innovation session begins with what we call Discovery.  This is where you look outside the world of what’s common for you and your team.  Here you explore what others are doing that are outside your industry but who have enough crossover to make you scratch your head and consider ideas from outside.



Here we move to more internal thoughts and perspectives on how to address the core problem/project.  This stage walks a group through 12+ “buckets” of strategic thought that are helping to equip the working group to help solve the problem.  This interactive stage allows for mass contribution to specific points of your future plan.



Next we move into a phase where you allow each participant to sketch out a few models for how they would see solving this project.  We’re always working toward tangible models and visual representations of the strategy.  This stage allows individuals to express and share ideas and then presents an opportunity for group members to vote on which bring the most clarity and direction to the project.  



The final major stage is where the whole group is broken into two core teams to build prototype projects.  Think arts and crafts projects with supplies from Hobby Lobby and Office Depot… seriously.  The goal here is to create some solution to the core problem that’s a creative approach to the problem statement.  



Once prototypes are complete, the two teams give a short presentation of their prototype and field questions from the other team.  This phase helps flush out the two proposed solutions and gives the innovation owner two working models that could be used to solve their core problem (the owner leaves the innovation with the task to compile those two models and create the blended solution that meets their core problem).  


And that’s it… it’s really that simple!  Now there are all sorts of nuances to the process and how to facilitate these sessions well but this is the basic construct for what an innovation looks like.  These sessions are excellent to help you dig into those more complex problems, seek the council of others, and come up with solutions better than you probably could construct on your own… or at the least, put a lot more “meat on the bones” of what you’ve already created.


Cause Machine Solutions

Cause Machine is a platform created to help you better engage your audience.  We share blog posts like this to encourage community leaders to work through processes like an innovation to discover how better to engage community members.  One of our core principles at Cause Machine is that your strategy should always drive your technology.  Our hope is that you have great rhythms to better engage your audience, like hosting innovation sessions.  And then we would love to see you bring those engagement plans to life on Cause Machine.   Schedule a demo today!



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