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Innovation Funnels - Look Familiar?

Most organizations have some sort of mechanism to source and review ideas. Their "innovation funnel."

Some are very robust with dedicated resources designed to select and develop the right ideas based on technical, market, and strategic fit... and develop an effective go-to-market plan along the way.

But honestly, most funnels are half-assed or downright ineffective . Think of the old-school 'suggestion box' AKA 'black hole.'

If you had to draw YOUR organization's innovation funnel, how would it really look?

Here are a few I've seen:

The Stage Gate Funnel - with specific deliverables and decisions required to advance to the next stage, leading successful ideas to commercialization / deployment. This is a best practice (when executed well) and widely used by larger organizations.

The Churn-erator Funnel - Ideas come in. Ideas are sometimes discussed but no resources are applied, leading to no decisions or action. Once in a while something pops out (pet projects, acts of desperation, mediocre projects selected primarily to meet 'innovation goals') but it usually doesn't have much of an impact due to lack of go-to-market strategy.

The Management Injector - My personal favorite. Employees submit ideas. None are really considered. Instead, a senior manager reads an article in HBR and says "We should do that!!!" without consideration of cultural, technological, or portfolio fit. "But hey, it worked really well for a different company in a different industry!" Sometimes it works (it really was a good idea) but it takes a lot of effort to get a marginal success.

The Competitor Copier Funnel - Employee ideas are generally ignored as too risky (unproven market, unknown ROI). Development is focused on copying competitor solutions (and ring-fencing their IP) after those solutions start eating into sales and margins. By the time the copies hit the market, it's already on the way to becoming a commodity with lower margins. I once heard an executive say "We are proud to be a fast follower" when they were not fast... and didn't understand why they were no longer the market leader.

The Usual Suspects Funnel - There's a funnel that collects ideas. But the ones that get through come from the 'usual suspects' - those that have delivered successful commercial solutions in the past. Ideas from Everyone Else aren't really considered. And to make it worse, those 'usual suspects' can go from hero to zero quickly with one unsuccessful product, driving safe bets that are incremental at best.

The Invisi Funnel - There is no process. At least not one that employees know about. Or that is actually used. Every new project is driven by R&D or Marketing or Management Directive with no comprehensive review or cross-functional support. In the end new solutions are 'thrown over the fence' for operations to figure out how to sell and deliver.

The Infini Funnel (a variation on the Churn-Erator Funnel) - Good idea? Bad idea? Great idea with a bad fit? Doesn't matter. Everything stays in the queue where it doesn't die but never quite makes it to market. I'd call it the Zombie funnel but that would be harder to draw.

Do any of these look or sound familiar?

Do you have a new one to add?

Frustrated with your funnel? Let's talk about specific tactics to address some of these challenges...

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