The Corporate Innovation Machine

The Corporate Innovation Machine

A simple model for implementing an idea management based innovation strategy in your firm.


The corporate innovation machine is a model for understanding how to implement an effective, idea management based innovation strategy in your firm. As with any machine, the corporate innovation machine comprises several components, all of which must work together for the machine to function properly. When the entire machine does work, it builds ideas, evaluates those ideas and implements the best ideas as new product, service and operational improvements which translate into increased revenues for your firm.

Powered by Management

The corporate innovation machine is powered by management. Just as the most sophisticated machine will not run without a power source, likewise your corporate innovation strategy will go nowhere without top management taking the lead.

Management’s main task is to create within the organization a culture of innovation which will empower workers to think creatively, collaborate on ideas and contribute their ideas to the company. This is not an easy task, but done well it will make construction of the remainder of the innovation machine a relatively easy job.

Management must:

  • Ensure there is an environment of trust
  • Establish innovation goals
  • Designate responsibility and resources
  • Develop a communications plan
  • Demonstrate innovation
  • Reduce creative risk
  • Establish a rewards scheme

Idea Generator

If management is the power source of the innovation machine, then the idea generator – the tools and techniques for generating ideas – is the motor that drives the innovation process.


In order to understand how the tools and techniques function, it is important to understand a few key principles:

1. Creativity versus innovation
2. Individual creativity versus organizational creativity
3. Creative collaboration

  • Creative teams
  • Brainstorming groups
  • Networking
  • Open collaboration via Internet/intranet

4. Squelching (avoiding)

Tools & Techniques

Organizations should have a small “toolbox” of tools and techniques for facilitating innovation. The central tool should be an idea management system capable of soliciting, capturing and evaluating ideas. Properly used, such a tool permits a steady stream of innovative ideas for implementation. Other tools, such as skunkworks, brainstorming, creative spaces and creative meetings further your organization’s innovation potential. Available tools include:

1. Suggestion scheme idea management: flawed
2. Campaign based idea management: best approach

  • decentralized management
  • total open collaboration
  • open to entire workforce
  • intuitive & easy to use
  • semi-anonymous idea submission

3. Brainstorming
4. Skunkworks

Idea Quality Control – Evaluation

The more successful an idea management program is, the more ideas it will generate. As a result, you need an efficient quality control system. Some organizations have highly structured systems comprising multi-stepped systems for reviewing ideas. While this can be effective, it is also important to retain flexibility in the system. If an idea is clearly a winner, it is often wise to “run with it” immediately, before your competition learns of the idea.

Idea quality control has several components:

  • Gut feeling
  • 5×5 Evaluation matrix
  • Open analysis meeting
  • Pre-implementation

Output – Implemented Ideas

Once ideas pass all required quality control processes, they are ready to be implemented. Most companies already have effective implementation procedures for new products, services or operations. If you do not, you should run ideas campaigns on improving these procedures. In addition, it is important to:

  • Monitor the results of the idea implementations
  • Communicate, via the communication plan (see above)
  • Reward the people who have submitted and implemented ideas

Maintaining the Machine

It is important to monitor the results of your innovation strategy and tweak it over time in order to improve results. A major review after six months and annually thereafter allows you to evaluate the results, determine weak points and improve the functioning of your innovation strategy.

Download as PDF – LetterA4

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Jeffrey BaumgartnerJeffrey Baumgartner is the founder of, makers of Jenni innovation process management software. He also edits Report 103, a popular eJournal on business innovation. Contact Jeffrey at or visit

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No Comments

  1. Neha on May 23, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Great article, Jeff! And thanks for sharing the pdf. At ,my organisation, we are in the process of finalizing an Innovation Framework to build a robust innovation culture….your article could definitely help in defining our idea management strategy.

  2. Jeffrey Baumgartner on May 23, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Thanks very much, Neha!

    I would be fascinated to know more about the framework you and your colleagues are developing. If you can share, please let me know more (my email is at the end of the article and probably in the PDF.


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