At Skookum, we’re often asked what is the ideal or “best in practice” innovation program, lab or team. The answer is... it depends. You can implement all of the best practices in the world, but ‘best’ is completely subjective and only meaningful when it aligns with your desire to innovate, how you define innovation, and what the organization’s goals are.

Therefore, we cannot tell you the ideal innovation program for you in a blog post. However, what we can do is share a framework for helping to build up the program. If you have these five areas clearly identified, articulated & socialized, your chances of success will increase!

Purpose of Innovation

Simon Sinek says ‘Start With Why’ and we couldn’t agree more. This can be a difficult conversation at times, since there isn’t a widely accepted definition of what innovation is and isn’t. However, it’s still necessary to establish since activities, people, processes, etc. all cascade from the purpose of your innovation.

It sets the tone for goals and strategies, and serves as a position to defend activity while also indicating budget ownership. We care about it so much, we’ve written about it before...

Problems with Innovation

Problems are where your greatest and most innovative opportunities come from. A collection of ideas, problem areas and opportunities, technologies, et al becomes the foundation of your innovation portfolio.

Varying levels of risk (typically measured by the number of unknowns associated with the idea) allow for the innovation team to add value today, tomorrow, and in the future. Keeping this balanced depending on risk appetite enables you to make small smart bets that might pay off big. To learn more about segmenting and balancing your incoming ideas, read Innovation Portfolios and Keying in on your Minimum Viable Idea.

People Who Innovate

We will take people over product any day of the week. A great team wholly dedicated to innovation—or, having empowered your great employees across the organization with systemic tools and policy and safeguards to really innovate—is critical to innovation success.

As mentioned, your purpose creates alignment for innovation, which in turn helps identify the right people for the program (dedicated or otherwise). This decision is inclusive of the skills, competencies, tools, and technologies they’ll leverage to drive through your process.

Process of Innovation

The way you move ideas from inception to launch - from the activities and frameworks, to what constitutes a “good idea”, all should be defined and refined as the process matures to the organization.

A flexible yet rigorous, well-socialized process provides confidence as ideas increase in fidelity and integrate back into the company. Innovation is a discipline, just like any other function—your process proves that and creates accountability for the program/team.

Performance Indicators in Innovation

Speaking of accountability and rigor... commit to measuring yourself (though perhaps not with extreme revenue targets). Innovation is risky, sometimes mysterious, and admittedly viewed with some doubt. You can reduce all of these and create more legitimacy and validity within the organization when there are clearly communicated goals for the program,alongside metrics to showcase progress and value generated by the innovation program.

Applying the 5Ps of Innovation are a great way to get started (or reassess) how your innovation word is performing. They aren’t meant to be set in stone and should be subjected to iteration and improvement like anything else. They’re all meant to create accountability, provide guidance, and allow innovation to focus on what matters: building new value for consumers and the organization.