Factor 1 – Innovation Management. How to Harvest, Identify, Refine and Propose Your Ideas

  • How to Harvest new ideas
  • Identify the winning idea
  • Refine the chosen idea
  • Propose the idea to others

Innovation is a common conversation in a lot of organizations, a buzz word that is added to many a presentation, business report or marketing campaign but the reality is when the conversation stops delivery must begin…

Delivering innovation successfully needs all the factors discussed on IntelligentCX, but it starts with the ideas. In this section, we talk about how best these ideas can be gathered, assessed, decided upon and initiated.

How to Harvest New Ideas

The first thing to recognize is that everyone has ideas, every employee in your organization will have thought at some point or another “we should do this and our business would be so successful”, “our customers would definitely buy it if we did that.” The question to ask is how do you get the ideas discussed around the water cooler, in the coffee shop or even in the bar after work in front of the right people and in a format that they can understand and judge.

Harvesting ideas is a journey, there is no right way to do it as it will very much depend on the culture of your business but there are some things which will help get started, which can be learned and grown from, in the spirit of innovation, try it and iterate.

2 questions to think about

  • Where will your ideas come from? employees? customers? suppliers? competition? all of the above?
  • How will you encourage and capture them?

One activity worth mentioning here is the fairly new concept of ideation workshops, these are structured workshops designed to create and harvest new ideas, more information on ideation can be found here.

Identifying the Winning Ideas

So you have opened up your business to ideas, how do you sensibly spot the big idea, the winning idea, the one you want to progress as a business.

There are many ways to approach this, the most interesting, most valuable to customers, diversity of ideas, urgency, expert opinion, etc, etc the best approach will be the one that is right for you and your business and most likely involve a combination of these things. Essentially you are evaluating and validating, so will require evaluation criteria, e.g. Appeal, precision, practicality, stability, integrate-able, profitability, feasibility, etc.

One area to be acutely aware of here is your people, they have spent time thinking and developing their ideas and submitting them, you must not demotivate them by closing down an idea without feedback. Maintaining the flow ideas after those proposed are deemed unfeasible for whatever reason is essential, the best way to handle this is through transparency, provide reason (good reasons!) why something could not be taken forward and through commonality, there must be no human bias of any sort and all ideas must be treated evenly.

Refining the Chosen Idea

A business plan is the next key objective, so you need to get clear on WHY. Capturing your initial objectives and goals for whatever the idea is, is essential and do it from 2 perspectives, why would it a customer want and why is it valuable to your business.

Simplify and clarify the idea, resolve any assumptions that have made up to this point, assumptions on how to make it, how much it will cost, how big the market is. Follow this up by defining the ideas USP or unique selling point,

Start to look at the other 5 factors here: Market and Marketing, Profit, Delivery, Insight, Culture

Some good initial questions to ask

  • What is the market
  • How will it be marketed
  • What are the costs
  • Where is the revenue coming from
  • How will it be built
  • What are the timescales
  • What insight could be captured and how can it be used
  • Will your business culture fit to execute it

No mention of technology to make the product has been mentioned, this is intentional, define what the business goals are then to figure out how to do it.

Making technology choices too early in a project will only restrict your product to the capability of the technology. Set the destination then figure out how to get there.

Some additional questions to ask and further reading can be found here

This process will generate a lot of information, requirements, and tasks and it’s important to get the idea organized and prioritized. A combination of 2 tools to do this is mind mapping and to-do lists. You can go old school pen and paper or you can use something like MindMeister and MeisterTask. The great thing about these 2 tools is that they are linked and you can create tasks from your mindmap and they are free to use (to a point).

Here is a recent example that I’ve worked on.

Pull all this information together into a single document which will be used as the basis to articulate and progress the idea. This is best served in some form of ‘lite’ business proposal which has a focus on recruiting support whether that be investors, stakeholders, peers or just your own mind.

A useful reference on business case creation.

Proposing Ideas to Others

First and foremost, get together your elevator pitch, you can use the vision template below to help, but ultimately a succinct and persuasive sales pitch is what is needed.

For Customer/user 
Who has Need 
Product/business is a <Description>
That will Value Statement

Proposing is all about getting buy-in, you could have the best idea in the world but if you don’t get support for it, the idea is going nowhere. It is essential to get your boss, budget holders, team members, peers, investors, etc all on board and backing your idea financially, emotionally and culturally for it to be a success.


Innovations most recent meaning is a new idea, it has a variety of types which will be discussed in other articles but they all are driving or should be driving for the same thing, delivering value, whether this is to a customer or to your business.

If we were to highlight one key element to both monitor and nurture it would be company culture, it is the single biggest killer of innovation. from this negative let’s focus on a positive, innovation can come from anywhere so keep your mind open and your eyes open, be receptive and do your due diligence using the guide above to guide you on your way.

Further Reading

What is innovation and how can businesses foster it?


The eight essentials of innovation


The Innovator’s Dilemma (Management of Innovation and Change) by Clayton M Christensen

The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

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