The problems with the stage gate innovation process:
Many leaders and managers have a kind of blind faith in the stage gate innovation process.
Whist it has some plusses (e.g. provides a structure for innovation) and it is useful for large scale projects it has many drawbacks.
– It is time consuming
– Managers become obsessed with getting to the next step and sometimes lose sight of the end goal or outcome
– There is no learning or sharing steps
– It is linear in nature with little feedback loops
– Can be used by a limited number of people in the organisation
– Smaller projects become lost or swamped by the bigger projects and
– The entire process itself can be intimidating.
– Sometimes the business case is not completed until half-way through the process — by then it is often too late as much political and financial capital has been invested.
Introducing a simpler, faster process for everyday innovation
It is for these reasons that I have developed the small wins innovation process.
It consists of 6 steps.
Step 1. The goal.
The small wins innovation process starts with identifying a specific goal.
The goal is the problem, issue or opportunity to be addressed.
This can be identified by an individual or small group.
It could be an existing team or one that has come together for this process only.
Or it could be a particular practice, report, process or product where the status-quo is to be challenged.
Ideally the goal should be stated in objective terms e.g. we would like to reduce the time taken to respond to complaints by 50%.
Step 2. Create
This step is concerned with generating, enhancing and evaluating a range of new and potentially valuable ideas and solutions.
In this step there are a number of fast and time efficient creativity tools that can be used.
– Ideas Blitz and the
Step 3. Test
As the name implies this step involves taking the best ideas or solutions and testing these with users or customers.
The aim is to design a test or experiment which can be done quickly, cheaply and simply.
Step 4. Measure
One of the important steps in the small wins innovation process is to measure the results of any test or experiment.
the individual or group should be asking themselves such questions as; what has happened and why?
Step 5. Learn
It is surprising how many processes don’t have a built in learning step.
In the small wins innovation process this step is concerned with making explicit what has been learned.
Even the process of advancing some progress, insight and piece of learning is a small win.
This takes the pressure off people worrying about just the results only.
Sometimes even when the results are disappointing if there is a leap in learning then this is a small win.
Step 6. Share
The small wins innovation process ends with sharing the results and key learnings with others.
In this way mistakes are not duplicated and knowledge is shared throughout an organisation.
Innovation is also about roles not just people:
The small wins innovation process consists of 6 steps: goal, create, test, measure, learn and share.
Interestingly when I have shown this model to leaders they have often commented that of all the steps — measure is the one they do best.
They say that they are not very focussed, creative nor able to test things quickly.
Even when they (leaders) generate and test a new and different solution they rarely learn from it and then never share it across silos.
This process is about the 6 steps and the connections between each one.
It is also a great process to talk about innovation as a series of roles not people.
There are some people for example who might be good at creating new ideas but others who are better at testing, measuring, learning or sharing.
This means that everyone can play the innovation game.
Everyday innovation is a wonderful (and often neglected) way of solving problems, challenging the status quo and making every team and organisation a simpler, better more productive place to be.
The small wins innovation process can help everyone on this journey.