Can Innovation Be a Structured Repeatable Process?

Can Innovation Be a Structured Repeatable Process?When Innovation comes to mind, the first thing people may think of is creativity, spontaneity, or a momentary stroke of genius. But can innovation occur out of a structured, repeatable process? The answer, in short, is yes. In fact, in order to build a long-term culture of sustained innovation, a structured process must be put into place especially in idea generation or ideation. Although it sounds counter intuitive to say “structure” and “ideation” in the same sentence, organizations need to conduct at least two ideation sessions each year in order to foster continued growth. A good innovation leader has the foresight to schedule regular ideation sessions year after year, and not just when sales are dwindling.

Ideation, or idea management, is part of a long term innovation effort that, if facilitated intelligently, leads to successful new products or services. Even if a small percentage of concepts make it through the process, the payoff could be significant for the company. So schedule those bi-annual ideation sessions and invite members from various departments in your organization to participate. You’ll find value in fresh perspectives from customer service, engineering, production, marketing, and your salespeople. Here are some tips for hosting ideation sessions that will lead to the best possible outcomes.

  • Break up teams into people who know each other but are not “that friendly” with each other in order to minimize group think.
  • Vary the format as well as locations and times of ideation sessions. Predictability can kill ideation. Mix it up to get people out of their comfort zones.
  • Accept ALL ideas and get them written down on the board. You never know when a concept can be recycled for future use.
  • Build a database of ideas from which new combinations and solutions can be derived.

By holding regular ideation sessions, your organization is adopting a proactive strategy in the new product development process. To get results in Innovation, a structured, repeatable process is essential, look to all imperatives of Robert’s Rules of Innovation:

  1. Inspire
  2. No Risk, No Innovation
  3. New Product Development Process
  4. Ownership
  5. Value Creation
  6. Accountability
  7. Training and Coaching
  8. Idea Management
  9. Observe and Measure
  10. New Result Net Reward

These rules of order are meant to be applied regularly as part of a sustainable growth strategy. All these parameters should be continually utilized – and not just when sales or ideas are low – to achieve successful, lasting innovation.

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robert brandsRobert Brands is the founder of, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival,” with Martin Kleinman – published Spring 2010 by Wiley (

Robert F Brands




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No Comments

  1. Mike Sinsheimer on August 20, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Innovation is messy and not subject to “sessions” – it really comes from understanding the market place and also asking the question “why” often as we share here –

  2. John Wolpert on August 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    This just isn’t right. Counting the ways this kind of article drives me crazy. “Can innovation occur out of a structured, repeatable process? The answer, in short, is yes.”

    The real answer, in short, is “No”.

    Processes aren’t the answer, and if I had a nickel for every failed “idea collection” scheme that did nothing but raise corporate cynicism, I’d have a lot of nickels.

    What you can do is create an ecosystem that at least doesn’t hurt innovators while the firm focuses on operational excellence.

  3. Robert Brands on August 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    John did you read the whole article? A structured repeatable process is essential, without it all the creativity and innovators ecosystem wont do you ant good. This is not theory, we delivered annual innovation year on year for a 12 year run creating tremendous value and selling the company at 15x ebit…al due to a structured reperatable process supporting creativity…

    • John Wolpert on August 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      I read it, Robert. I just disagree with you on the case you make. I’m not saying, of course, that you didn’t create value for your clients. I’m sure you did. And a structured, repeatable process is essential for running a business over the long-term (not when that business is in the middle of paradigm shift).

      You’ll note in that I have a specific framework for innovation. Improvement, being a different thing altogether, is very well suited to a structured repeatable process. Paradigm shift (aka innovation) is not. Happy to chat about it offline. Ping me on LinkedIn.

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