How do you start innovation? The high failure rate and the frustrations shared by so many lead to the conclusion that the start of innovation is full of pitfalls. That’s why I provide you with a practical 56 point checklist to lead you through the innovation maze to innovate your company or your clients company.

This post is my two-hundredth blog on innovation as LinkedIn Influencer. The 56 point checklist is in a fact a summary of my personal insights as manager, consultant and, the last 15 years, as facilitator of innovation.

1.    Pick one of the two sweet-spot moments for innovation: the moment you want to innovate or the moment you need to innovate.

2.    Focus as innovator on reducing the uncertainty to acceptable levels for yourself and your organization, as you always start at 100%.

3.    Pick one of the four routes to guide you through the innovation maze: the Idea Route, The Technology Route, The Customer Issue Route or the Business Challenge Route. Here’s a pic of the Idea Route. You can download all innovation routes for free here.

“Persevere, Abandon or Pivot your Idea into Something Better”

4.    Include at the front end of innovation at least these ten activities: Ideate, Focus, Check Fit, Create Conditions, Discover, Create Business Model, Select Technology, Check Freedom to Operate, Experiment and Create New Business Case.

5.    On your innovation journey as startup, highlight both Discover and Experiment because you have created a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

6.    Risk failing and going the extra mile is all essential in getting your innovation to market.

7.    Use all your learnings to decide at any moment on your innovation journey whether to persevere with your idea or to abandon your idea and pivot it into something new and better than the original

“Pick a Clear Focus”

8.    Identify innovative quick-wins and prioritize them, as they will build trust among your company, when you’re innovating after a crisis.

9.    Pick a clear focus for innovation, otherwise your efforts will be all over the place and you will endlessly hesitate to pick the right idea.

10. Find a good balance between incremental innovations and radical innovations in your organization. They are both indispensable.

 Create The Right Conditions: moment, team, leader, and route”

11. Draft an innovation assignment where your senior management is explicit about their expectations on the results.

12. Be ambitious when you quantify your innovation goals.

13. Pick a well-balanced diverse team and work on group tolerance.

“Discover to break your patterns and to learn”

14. Embrace tension in the team, as it sparks creativity in a tolerant group.

15. Discover, as it will take your blinders off and broaden your perspective.

16. Move beyond your personal comfort zone, as that is where the innovation magic happens.

17. Scrutinize trends and connect to innovators in other sectors to help you break your pattern.

“Ideate relevant ideas deferring your judgment”

18. Identify customers’ pain points as they create an entry for new solutions you might develop for them.

19. Mingle among customers as they will give you new, refreshing insights which are the best stepping stones for innovative ideas.

20. Be open to ideas which come to you as slow hunches.

21. Create slack time, as your best ideas will pop up in your mind at these moments.

22. Co-create with lead users to generate revolutionary new offerings.

23. Defer your judgment, most of the time, or you will kill everything.

“Create a Business model to describe the way you capture value”

24. Describe the rationale of how your organization creates, delivers and captures value in a practical business model.

25. Turn present beliefs in your sector upside down by creating new business models.

26. At an early stage, work out how to deliver your new concept.

27. At the start of innovation, incorporate an activity to match your new technology with relevant market needs.

Select a technology from a customer point of view, like Steve Jobs did. 

28. Experiment with tangible prototypes among potential customers to accelerate the pace of learning when you start with new technology.

29. Work out alternative concepts, which vary in cost, complexity and risk: a low-tech option, a proven-tech option and a new-tech option.

30. Use proven technology when it’s essential to make your new concept more feasible and less risky.

31. Select a technology from a customer point of view, like Steve Jobs did.

“Check if Your innovation fits Your Company”

32. Be aware that the single biggest obstacle in innovation is one small word: no.

33. Even be prepared to quit your present job to make your idea become reality.

34. Check if your innovation fits your organization at the front end, as it will be killed sooner or later if it doesn’t.

35. Leave your organization when there’s no match between your idea and them, and approach others with a better match or startup yourself.

“Check your freedom to operate to proceed without infringing the right of others”

36. Don’t spend time on ideas that don’t have any chance of becoming reality.

37. Check the ‘Freedom to Operate’ to proceed without infringing the intellectual property right of others.

38. Consider a patent when your own new concept is a new, useful and non-obvious machine, process, manufacture, composition.

39. File a patent when there’s a valid new business case.

“Experiment at the start of innovation to validate the future business potential”

40. Tweak the right technology and the right business model through smart experiments.

41. Validate the future business potential of your new concept by experimenting.

42. Make your experiments as realistic as possible, as the more you learn the better you will be able to assess the validity and attractiveness of your new concept.

43. Pretotype to test an idea quickly and inexpensively by creating extremely simplified, mocked or virtual versions of the new offering.

“Create a convincing new business case to get your innovation funded”

44. Keep in mind that a lot of wise people aren’t able recognize the potential of a great idea.

45. To get the development of your new offering funded, you require a convincing new business case.

46. Convincing decision makers of more radical innovations is a bigger challenge as the uncertainties are bigger.

47. Be serious when you pitch your new business case, as “nobody buys innovation from a clown.”

48. Only start implementing an innovation, when you yourself are 100% convinced – and committed to it.

“Pivot your new offering swiftly whenever necessary during development”

49. Communicate to everyone in a clear vision on the ‘why’ and the ‘what’. Do this, not ten, not hundred but a thousand times if necessary.

50. Keep the pressure on while developing, while knowing that it takes a long breath to get it ready for launch.

51. Use the original new business case of the front end of innovation as a hypothesis in the back end and pivot your offering under development swiftly when necessary.

52. Ban a steering committee of top managers, and get them directly involved as godfathers of your new creation.

53. Do fewer projects faster, as speed is more important than ever.

54. Adopt an innovation process which helps you and your innovators get to launch as quickly as possible instead of frustrating them with endless reviews.

55. Reach out to customers regularly during the development process with prototypes and real-live tests to confirm you’re still on the right track.

56. Open up your development process and co-create with committed passionate partners.

Remember: keep it simple, as an innovation is a feasible relevant offering with a viable business model that is perceived as new and is adopted by a customer.

Note : This article was originally posted on LinkedIn

Gijs van Wulfen


Gijs van Wulfen is a recognised authority and keynote speaker on innovation and Design Thinking. He was chosen as one of the first LinkedIn Influencers and as of 2017, 300.000 people across the globe are following his notably engaging, prolific and insightful posts. In 2016 Gijs came number 2 in the international Top 40 Innovation Bloggers. In 2017 his book ‘The Innovation Maze’ was elected ‘Management Book of the Year’.



Shenzhen Blog Editor