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9 Stages of Innovation

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

9 Keys for innovation from idea to scaleup

Why Startups fail

The opinion and belief of many are that innovation is a game of chance. They believe that a large number of innovative ideas are likely to fail and only a few succeed.

This is the result of the belief that innovation is an output of the "Eureka moment". This is arising from the belief that innovation is a result of emotional creativity, either spontaneous or deliberate.

Subscribers to the theory that creativity drives innovation, believe that the creative individual will find a way through the complexity of converting an idea into a business through their sheer passion, commitment and brilliance.

However, sustainable and repeatable innovation only results from cognitive creativity. This arises from sustained efforts using the ability to connect patterns and deep knowledge with either deliberate or spontaneous ideas.

Innovation that is anchored in cognitive creativity has a much higher success rate than those driven by emotional creativity.

Such innovation is dependent on a robust process of innovation management driven by governance, strategy and process.

During my study of innovation and its management, I have identified 9 keys that open up a passage that can significantly increase the success rate of converting an idea into business at scale.

Each of the keys lets you use tools and techniques that enable you to access the key that lets you into the next stage of innovation. We call them the 9 stages of innovation. This blog is a peep into the 9 stages and keys

1. Ensure the idea is strategic to your business

The foremost requirement for evaluating if an organization should invest in an idea is to check its strategic fit with the business. The idea needs to be driving one of the three objectives

  1. How does the organization improve and optimize the core business?

  2. How does the organization reshape the core by expanding to partially new tech or using a new business model

  3. How does the organization create new-to-company or new-to-world business

This holds whether you are a large organization or a startup.

A systematic evaluation of your idea against the requirement of this stage ensures that you are working on an idea that will get priority.

2. Explore and establish that you are solving a "Real Problem"

Even the best minds can't succeed with innovation if you are not dealing with a problem that is important to customers.

Very often innovators and organizations begin work on ideas that are dear to them, without focussing on whether the customer considers it a real problem to be solved. Segway scooter is one such example, a great piece of technology, which unfortunately didn't solve a problem that was important for customers.

The tools in this stage help you evaluate if the idea is likely to eliminate a problem that is important for the customers.

3. Explore and identify multiple solution concepts

In all cases of pull innovation, a key question to be answered early is the availability of solution concepts.

Several questions require answers in this stage

  • What are the factors that can kill the solution?

  • Can we overcome them?

  • What is the technology maturity of the components of the solution? Which of them are commodities, which of them are proprietary and what requires innovation?

  • What are the non-negotiable functional requirements?

  • How many different ways exist to solve the design problem? what subset should we be exploring?

The tools in this stage will help you evaluate if a realistic solution space exists for solving the problem.

4. Get customer inputs using a low-fidelity prototype

Innovations are more successful if we can gather detailed customer inputs from low-fidelity prototypes, that's from products that have cost very little to develop.

By designing evaluative product and market experiments, we can use low-cost low fidelity prototypes to gather valuable customer inputs for the product development exercise.

The key to low-fidelity prototype testing is to identify the minimum feature set that the customer considers important.

5. Validate the functional requirements and identify the business model using MVP

Minimum viable products (MVP) are a great way to validate functional requirements at a lab scale and with pioneer customers. This stage also helps in developing the business model canvas and the hypothesis underlying every aspect of the business model.

MVPs that have a minimal feature list can be built quite fast and at a low cost for most innovations as compared to building the final product solution. Multiple iterations of MVP may be required before the functional requirements are finalized. These can be used to demonstrate the solution and determine if the customer value can indeed be delivered. Various aspects of the business model can also be evaluated.

6. Evaluate the desirability of the solution

No innovation is going to work if it doesn't solve the functional requirement and does it very well. Secondly, it also needs to be desirable. Motorolla's Iridium satellite phone never succeeded, despite it being a technology marvel. It failed because it failed to deliver key functional requirements.

It's very important that the functional objectives are demonstrated in a customer environment and desirability established using prototypes, not with a fully developed product.

This ensures that the development costs and time are reduced.

7. Evaluate the feasibility and viability of the solution

You could have a technology that works and delivers the functional requirements, but fails the feasibility and viability test.

The technology world is full of products that fully satisfy the above statement. Think Segway. Some would claim that many of the energy solutions still don't meet feasibility and viability requirements.

This stage requires that every box of the business model canvas is tested, not just the value proposition. This requires evaluation of the key assets, key process, key partnerships, revenue and cost models, supply chain, customer relationship, GTM strategy etc.

8. Evaluate GTM strategy works and whether the value chain is viable

No innovation is successful if a healthy sales funnel can't be built. Similarly, the entire value chain needs to be robust and viable.

This means that before the innovation team hands the project to the business team, the go-to-market strategy is proven by ensuring that a healthy customer acquisition process exists and is viable.

It also important to establish that the partners have proven technology, capacities and capabilities to support us and are viable businesses.

Finally, the business model must be validated and all assumptions verified.

9. Ensure scale-up strategy is in place

Innovation teams must avoid handing over the innovation prematurely, without making sure that the scale-up strategy is in place.

This requires that the operations model is developed for the purpose. Rather than making emotional decisions about the ownership of the innovation, a strategic decision is taken about the spin-off, handover to a BU or licensing/sell strategy.

In the case of handing over to a BU or spin-off as a new BU, a detailed roadmap for success should be prepared. This should include identification and staffing key roles, establishing the resources to drive growth, making sure that the roadmap for ecosystem profitability is real and having a transition plan for handover from innovation team to the business team

Such a process will ensure that the chances of success with innovation is high.

We have developed an assessment framework, 9 stages of innovation, that helps you evaluate your innovation project on these 9 keys. The lite version of this assessment using this app will show you the weakness and risks in your project. Do send us feedback and reach out for more details.

The web app is a minimum viable product (MVP) that we developed in just 6 weeks. Prior to this we went through evaluating multiple ideas, selected one of them, developed the framework, and ran a pilot with low fidelity solution with a client (they loved it). All in 4 weeks' time!

We of course have a long way to go. There are more refinements and features required for this web app. The concept will be built further to be developed as a complete solution for managing innovation projects.

This is how innovation should be done, fast, with multiple iterations and pivots and in collaboration with clients.

A more detailed assessment can be done by an expert consultant through interviews and evaluation of the project. We can also help you with your innovation efforts. Reach out to or book a free 60-minute consultation using the link

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:


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