Ensuring that you have a constant stream of innovation that brings new products and services to fruition at precisely the desired point in time (today and into the future) is hardly ever going to be a precise science. However, wouldn’t it be great to sleep at night knowing that your current portfolio of products and services are brimming with innovation and in great demand by your customers and that you are totally confident that your pipeline of your future products and services is similarly robust?
In my new book, Systematic Innovation, I introduce a framework for managing innovation ‘flow’, The Innovation Pipeline.
The model is comprised of 7 segments from IP-1 to IP-7, each representing a different set of core activities that contribute towards managing innovation. It can also be populated by your products and services at their varying stages of development and lifecycle. Outside the model (IP-0) is the total market for all your potential products and services, the land of opportunity.
IP-1 (Seedlings) is populated by early ideas for potential products and services that have not as yet been researched or explored. They may or may not have future potential and the activities that take place in IP-1 are those that identify the possibility of potential for a new product or service in the market.
IP-2 (Research) is focussed on research to establish the potential and viability of a new product or service idea or concept.
IP-3 (Development) is focussed on the activities that contribute towards the development of products, services or solutions that get them to a state where they are as strong as they possibly can be prior to implementation.
IP-4 (Implementation) is about turning our new products, services or solution into reality.
IP-5 (New) contains our newly launched products, services and solutions.
IP-6 (Existing) contains your existing established products and services.
IP-7 (Dying) contains your products and services that are reaching the end of their life.
Assuming we are doing enough of the right activities in each segment and that each segment contains the right products and services, on the face of it things should be pretty straightforward. On the surface the model is really quite logical and easy to grasp.
It is beneath the surface that things begin to get a little more complicated.
The ‘Healthy’ Innovation Pipeline
The healthy Innovation Pipeline will be balanced in line with the needs of the business. It makes sense, therefore, to be clear from the outset what the business will look like in say two to three years hence. For example, what products and services will be in your portfolio, which (if any) products and services will have been dropped, how many new products and services will be launched, how many new products and services will be in the pipeline to enable you to sleep well at night?
Once we are clear about the above and more, the healthy Innovation Pipeline will be managed in a way that ensures you have the best possible chance of your ideal future position becoming a reality. It is the ‘engine’ that delivers a successful portfolio of existing and developing products and services.
The key is in understanding the meaningful activities required in each segment and in ensuring excellence in their execution.
When managing your innovation pipeline it is important to consider the following key points:
- Successful new products, services and solutions come about as the result of a culmination of the activities that create them. Therefore, we should focus on managing the right activities (inputs) so that we get a desirable flow of new products, services or solutions (outputs). This is not just about the quantity of the right activities but also the quality.
- Be mindful of the time lag between the necessary development activities and the launch of new products, which in many instances will be years. To create a desirable flow of new products and product developments, activities will need to be balanced and required consistently in each segment of the innovation pipeline.
- The desirability of new products and services will be dependent upon your understanding of customers and markets and the identification of problems or where there will be demand for the additional benefits that your new products and services will bring.
This is a huge subject and the above is only a quick introduction to what could make a significant difference to an organisation’s future success.