Innovation tools can come in many different forms and are often based on new technologies. Here, we refer to a category of tools that in some way enhance a company or person's ability to innovate. Whether the tool helps to better collaborate in a team, gain deeper customer insights or find and implement the best possible new ideas, they always help to implement change in a positive way. We suggest to try out different innovation tools and find the ones that work best for your company. Create a shared innovation language, where specific tools are deeply integrated into the daily work in order to be more creative but also more efficient in your approach. Some tools might be more focused on a strategic level, while others are key for day-to-day interaction. Find out what works best for you and your team and bring your products, services and business models to the next level. Let's look at the innovation process in order to give you some different categories of tools you might be interested in.
The innovation process describes the different steps from using knowledge to come up with new ideas, all the way to the implementation of new products, services or business models. The process gives a clear structure you can follow and while some tools can be used along the whole process, others focus on very specific steps (e.g. brainstorming tools in the idea generation step). We divided the innovation process into four steps:
While idea generation is the initial brainstorming of new ideas and therefore focuses on divergence (going as broad as possible and generating lots of ideas, no matter the quality), idea management is more about convergence (analyzing, categorizing, merging and selecting ideas in order to find the best ones). The best ideas are then tried out in experiments, which is important to prove if a concept might work at a bigger scale. This is also particularly crucial as a company can safe a lot of money, doing relatively cheap experiments first. Like this, they might be able to find out about issues that could otherwise have costly consequences. In the end, if an idea seems viable, it is implemented. This means the resources are collected and used by innovation teams to build a new product or service and bring it to market.
Generating many ideas is strongly associated with creativity. While this is true, creativity is often just a matter of using the right tools as a starting point. Creativity is thus something everyone can achieve!
All the tools focused on divergence try to generate as many ideas as possible within a short time span (often just a few minutes during an ideation workshop). A very important rule thereby is not to criticize or judge new ideas too quickly. Openness is key when using idea generation tools as otherwise new ways of doing things might be overlooked. Of course the quality of ideas is important. However, this will be evaluated at a later stage! Don't criticize your team members at this stage!
When using an idea generation tool, it is important that beforehand, some user research was conducted already. In the design thinking process, the brainstorming of new ideas only comes after a thorough research process where customer needs are analyzed in detail. No creative thinking in the world brings your company forward if the process is not directed towards a clear goal (based on what your customers need).
Idea management or innovation management starts with idea generation but goes beyond that by selecting the right ideas and developing them further. Specific idea or innovation management tools can therefore be helpful. Creating a lot of cool ideas is a great start. However, this doesn't bring you anywhere if these insights are not carefully selected and transformed into actual business opportunities. When doing this, it is not enough to simply rely on your gut feeling. Instead, having tools that guide you towards a systematic approach will help to be successful.
Evaluating and prioritizing is one of the hardest task for innovation teams, but is key to success. According to the 2018 Global Innovation 1000 study, up to 70% of the total costs are locked in at the ideation and project selection phases. This is the case because it is extremely hard to select good ideas from bad ones. Look therefore at your strategic priorities, at the market trends and at competitor portfolios in order to evaluate which ideas should be focused on. Once you have chosen some criteria for evaluation, be consistent. Always use the same criteria. Many idea management tools like Ideanote thereby offer a selection of criteria you can chose and an easy interface to rate existing proposals.
Convergence thinking tools have a clear purpose: they help us select the best ideas generated during the divergence process. This step requires a very different mindset, so the tools used for this purpose are also clearly different, focusing on analysis and synthesis, rather than idea generation. Many people might think that this kind of work is not creative, but in fact, it is. If we want to successfully finish any innovation process, running only the ideation step is useless. We should also have a clear method to filter the best ideas, leaving apart those not worthy enough, and focusing on the best ones.
Experiments are a way to test selected ideas. Now that you know what to focus on, you also want to see if these concepts are viable. A great way to do that is to test with real customers. If you would fully implement the idea instead of experimenting, chances are that you would miss an important problem. When you see the problem only when your product is on the market already, then this would probably cost you quite some money. Check instead some ways of experimenting like the Test Card.
Here it's all about building low cost prototypes. How can you build a MVP (minimum viable product) that showcases the most important product features? When you have such a MVP, go out again to the customers, let them test the prototype and observe how they interact with it. You might want to just give it to your user without any explanation and see what they focus on. Then afterwards you can ask them about their experience and gain in-depth feedback that will help you to build a new version of the prototype.
Here, a good idea is also to try facebook or google ads. Do split-testing and try which advertisements people click on the most. Check out facebook's advice for ad split testing: https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/lessons/overview-of-facebook-ad-split-testing
Finally, after testing your product with several experiments and prototypes, you are sure this can work and you are ready to implement the final concept. Most likely, this part will be done by a different department in your organization and it is key to have a clear scope of what you want to achieve and how the new product or service fits into your overall strategy and into your portfolio. When implementing a value proposition, many process management tools can be helpful, as they streamline the team, distribute responsibilities and visualize deadlines. Especially when different people are responsible for the implementation than the ones who did the experimentation, find a tool to still be in touch and keep a good communication in order to provide as much value for the customer as possible.
Next to the four steps in the innovation process that we highlighted, we want to mention to categories for innovation tools that we see as important throughout the process:
No matter at which stage of the innovation process, most innovation tools will either focus on enhancing your internal collaboration within the team or on facilitating interaction with customers. Both aspects are crucial and don't have to be separated from each other. Still we used this categorization to make it easier for you to find the right tools. Collaboration is thereby key for both aspects and can for example be implemented in the form of open innovation.
We have looked at the best innovation tools on the market and provide you with a short list of what we perceive to be the most value providing resources.
If you are looking for an all-in one innovation platform with a great user interface, you've found it. Ideanote visualizes the whole innovation process and enables you to collaborate with your team members to easily collect, rate and select ideas in your company.
This tool is very much focused on the earlier steps in the process (mainly idea generation). It is a online whiteboarding tool to collaborate online in a beautifully visualized environments. You can thereby use their great templates as support.
This idea management tool gives you a complete workspace not just to manage your ideas and innovations but also to provide a structure for your whole online collaboration. Many free templates are available and help you to have a clean digital workspace.
We list slack here because it has grown into one of the most influential chat tools for businesses. No matter if you want to build a community with your customers or collaborate with your team, Slack is a great resource for you.
Another idea management took, accept mission however differentiates themselves with a great and appealing visual appearance. Their gamification approach is very refreshing and brings fun into the innovation funnel.
Innovation open happens online. Therefore Sneek is a great way to collaborate via video. Use this tool in connection to one of the complete idea management tools and collaborate in a more human way.
in the experimentation phase, Optimizely is a great way to create and test products that provide value to your customers. Especially for digital products, such a tool is key for experimentation.
Like ideanote, Qmarkets is a product that focuses on the whole innovation process. Compared to ideanote, the UX seems a bit more oldschool, and less straigthforward. Nevertheless it is an established player with many big customers and focused on enterprises
Forest is quite a new but beautiful innovation management software with a great UX. It focuses on the whole funnel, let's you include all employees but also gives you a diagnostics section to analyze your impact.
Roadmap is another great tool for your idea management / experimentation step. It facilitates the process of collecting user feedback and helps to turn feedback into action.
Go to www.reallygoodinnovation.com/topics to find the category you are looking for!
Check out www.reallygoodinnovation.com for all our resources!
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