by Cathy Dunn and Phil Allcock

A five-stage innovation process

Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service. It is capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practiced.

Peter Drucker

If you want to innovate, try working through this five-stage process.


1. Preparation

This involves paying real, detailed attention to what’s going on in the area of your business where you want to innovate – what’s its purpose/who gets something from it/what, fundamentally, are the outcomes it’s supposed to yield?

2. Generation

Once you’ve explored and understood the context in which you are wanting to innovate, you can start to come up with ideas that deal with the things you’ve discovered are really significant in that context.

3. Incubation

Once you’ve developed some options, sleep on them, or at least go away, do something else and then come back to them. This will allow your brain to process them and make better sense of them.

4. Evaluation

Once you’ve slept on the options you’ve created, you can evaluate them from a more objective perspective. A good approach is to use the themes you identified during preparation. Do these options fulfil the purpose, give everyone what they need and yield the fundamental outcomes?

5. Implementation

Some might say that this is the most challenging stage of the process – turning, with the cooperation of colleagues, clients, suppliers and so on, a good idea into something that works to everyone’s satisfaction!

Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.

Nolan Bushnell