Improve Your Innovation Process with Innovation Journey Maps

Improve Your Innovation Process with Innovation Journey Maps

The Customer Journey Map is a popular management tool.  It is a visual representation of customer interactions with a company and a tool to investigate, analyse and thus improve customer experiences.  Let’s borrow the tool and adapt it for our purposes.

The Innovation Journey Map (IJM) is a similar concept showing the journey that an innovation takes from initial conception through to final implementation.  The purpose of the IJM is to realistically assess what is happening with innovative ideas within your organisation, to identify impediments and delays and to significantly improve the innovation process.  The IJM  would typically  include:

  • A flowchart or diagrammatic representation of the journey which the innovation takes
  • All interactions and interfaces, decision points (DPs), between the idea and the reviews, approvals or developments carried out by the organisation
  • Likely “pain points” in the journey i.e. areas where the idea is likely to experience difficulties or rejection
  • Key “moments of truth” i.e. areas where there is the opportunity to “make” or “break” the proposal.

Once a map has been developed, it can be expanded to include:

  • Identification of departments and people responsible for the progress of the idea at each DP
  • The flow and timing between DPs
  • Importance ratings for each DP.
  • Performance of the company/organisation/brand at each DP.  This can include looking at the ideal performance compared to reality.

It is recommended that you draw up several maps.  Start with a couple of innovations which you have successfully implemented in the last 12 months.  Talk to the project owners and draw a block diagram showing each step starting with the origination of the idea right the way through to implementation.  Maybe take a major new product or service and also an important internal process or system innovation.  Next examine a project which made some progress and then got canned.

For a new product innovation the IJM might look a little like a stage gate diagram.  But a stage gate diagram is normally idealized and looks at the go/nogo critical points.  The IJM is more messy, more complete and more realistic.  It is an assessment of what actually happens showing all the key steps where the the proposal is either progressed or retarded.

Here is a simplified IJM for a new product.

Typically a map would have many more steps.  The IJM provides a visualisation tool which can be used to assess the effectiveness of the corporate processes.  Drawing up detailed IJMs for several different types of innovation projects will help show cultural and process obstacles to innovation.  It is important that the timeline is shown so that important questions can be asked.  These might include:

  • Where do good ideas originate?
  • What happens to good ideas?
  • How many approvals are needed to test a prototype idea?  Are they all needed?
  • What impedes progress for new ideas?
  • Why does it take so long to go from initial approval to final approval?
  • Where do we need to allocate more resources?  Which ones are needed?
  • How can we make it easier, simpler and faster to bring new ideas to market?

Innovation Journey Maps can become a useful addition to your management toolkit.

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Paul-Sloane-780812Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation, and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, published both published by Kogan-Page. Follow him @PaulSloane

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