The Innovation System: 7 Steps to Developing Innovative Ideas

To successfully innovate and develop our ideas to high-impact levels, we need to approach it with systems thinking and go through stages.

After working on innovation projects with a lot of organizations and institutions; reading many books, articles, and blogs; and launching my own innovations on a frequent basis, I’ve synthesized an innovation system that helps you see your ideas come to life with impact.

Starting new things is not easy.  New things fail all the time, so we need to increase our opportunity for success. A more scientific and systematic approach is the answer.

The Innovation System

7 Steps to Developing Innovative Ideas

This innovation system is a process we go through stage-by-stage, step-by-step, activity-by-activity.

  1. Clarify the challenge. Research to identify problems and opportunities.  Start with a meaningful challenge, and gain insight.  Get the opinion of the people you serve.  What do they think the problems, challenges and opportunities are?  We need this diversity of views to get a clear idea of what the challenge really is.  You probably know what a lot of these people think, and you probably know how to get that information from them.
  2. Formulate questions. Break that challenge down.  Turn it into a series of questions, and organize them from more general to more specific.  A large number of general questions will lead to a small number of specific questions.
  3. Generate ideas.  Use those questions to generate ideas.  Gather a lot of them.  Generate them yourself, and gather them from outside sources.  Observe what ideas arise, but don’t judge them yet.
  4. Analyze and synthesize ideas. Sort these ideas out once you have a lot of them.  Throw them into a funnel to narrow them down.  Sift and winnow.  Go from a ton of ideas to the ones you want to really develop.
  5. Develop concepts.  Flesh out your ideas a bit more.  Develop those best ideas into full-blown concepts.
  6. Test and select concepts. Now you’re getting close to launching your innovation.  Test out the concepts that remain to see if some are better than others.  See how your stakeholders feel about these concepts.
  7. Communicate and advance.  Communicate to everyone else about your best concept.  You are ready to take action and launch it.  Get it out into the world!

Innovation never stops, so keep working on it.  Activate your idea and keep working through the innovation process to keep making it better.  Start over again with the open loop of innovation.  The best way to innovate successfully is to make active and continuous innovation a part of your culture.

This article is taken from the online video-based program Program Innovation. Sign up for a free sample workshop from the program here, see details on the full program at, and see other programs, speeches, and more at

1 thought on “The Innovation System: 7 Steps to Developing Innovative Ideas”

  1. I found the 7 steps To Developing Innovative Ideas to be a very practical road map to follow. Also, I appreciated and enjoyed the Ted Talk topic on Bodily Steps to Imagination (Sharon Rey, May 2011). Sharon Rey presented an excellent and fun mind-expanding awareness tool that I know I will be using for the rest of my life.

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