Innovation efforts require a structure to stay organized and for successful execution. Many organizations have weak frameworks, which in turn, weaken their overall effectiveness. This week, we'll look at an innovation framework that I use and have used throughout my career, known as FIRE. We'll also discuss how you can utilize this framework within your organization.
Framework Versus Process
Think of a framework as the components needed to empower your team to be highly successful within innovation. Innovation frameworks and processes are not the same things. A framework is a construct that all organizations understand they need to have. A process is what is built on top of the framework to do the individual elements. I am not a big fan of processes as they often don't work because they require tailoring to the individual organization.
In the past, organizations have tried to use the process that I used at HP. Kroger used it, and Stanford and Harvard's business schools teach it. If you pick up this process and use it, you are not going to be successful. The process needs specific tailoring to work for you. Each organization requires a unique procedure, as each one has different structures, needs, and resources.
A framework gives your team a mental model for conversations, motivation, and overall understanding. Here are four vital elements needed in every innovation framework:
Focus defines and researches the opportunity or problem area where you are going to point your team. It would be best if you investigate and determine the focus area. I create a list of 4-6 areas of focus with my team. Next, you need to create a problem statement that drives people to find a solution. Creating a problem statement is not an easy task, but it is vital. With a problem statement, you will increase the quantity and quality of your ideas.
Based on your focus, create a funnel of ideas that address the opportunity or problem. The funnel is where you generate your ideas. Step one is to do both individual and team ideation. I have found that when you combine both individual and team ideation, you increase the quality of your ideas by 30%. Step two is grouping the ideas. You can use Jamboard or post-it notes to bring those ideas together and generate that funnel. You want to capture all those ideas and make sure nothing gets thrown out.
This is the element that most innovation frameworks leave out. The driver for ranking is to use it to identify the best ideas based on specific criteria. The goal is to create criteria to identify a ranked list so that you can take the top two or three ideas. I teach a two-stage ranking process. The first stage is what I call the “wow stage.” Everyone is given five dots and walks up to the list of ideas and puts their dots on ideas they think are the best. Next, you have criteria ranking, which varies by organization. It would help if you did the ranking in the same session as the “wow stage.”
You have to drive execution, which is very specific to an organization. It would be best if you had a test/experimentation on the idea. Next, you have to have an experimentation culture that is continuously experimenting and getting feedback. Lastly, you have to get a minimal viable product into the customer's hands.
Let's review what we learned about the innovation framework. I refer to this framework as the FIRE (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, and Execution) framework. When you bring these elements together, you have all the components needed to be effective in your innovation efforts. Each of these requires a process that is unique to your organization. If you don't have these four elements, you are fooling yourself. Used by thousands of organizations around the world, this framework is what I personally use and teach. A part of the bigger picture known as box think, the framework shows us to view things through different eyes.
If you want to check out the diagrams from this show, as well as other materials from previous shows, click the link here.
To know more about innovation framework and FIRE, listen to this week's show: 4 Required Elements of an Innovation Framework.