The Innovation Life Cycle: 4 Stages Innovators Share in Common



What are the key stages in the innovation life cycle?

What is the end-to-end value chain for bringing innovation to market?

In “Smart Spenders, the Global Innovation 1000,” an article in strategy+business magazine, Barry Jaruzelski, Kevin Dehoff, and Rakesh Bordia write about the four key stages of innovation that the 94 high-leverage innovators have in common.

4 Stages of Innovation

According to Jaruzelski, Dehoff, and Bordia, the four key stages of innovation are:

  1. Ideation – Basic research and conception.
  2. Project Selection – The decision to invest.
  3. Product Development – Building the product or service.
  4. Commercialization – Bringing the product or service to market and adapting it to customer demands.

High-Leverage Innovators

Jaruzelski, Dehoff, and Borida write:

“Based on press coverage and interviews with executives, we conclude that each of the 94 high-leverage innovators has built sufficiently strong capabilities in all four links of the value chain, and has seamlessly integrated them, to provide a high level of performance over time.”

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Use the frame to analyze improvement opportunities.  I found this frame helpful for thinking about the end-to-end cycle for innovation.  After all, what good are ideas if you can’t bring them to market.  A lot of ideas get stuck in the ideation stage. 
  • Walk your innovation cycle.  By walking your end-to-end system for bringing your ideas to end-users, you can find ways to reduce friction or find places to build synergies.  
  • Optimize your system over a stage.  Debottlenecking your end-to-end system is more effective than optimizing just a single stage.

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