How Digital Innovation Management Helps Citizen Developers

The term “innovation management” might leave you scratching your head with its ambiguity. More often than not, carefully curated business jargon describes the activities surrounding innovation management. When we think of innovation, our thoughts immediately go to polymath figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci, who was deemed far ahead of his time. However, we do not need to look back on history to find innovation for the future.

In order to facilitate innovation, we first need to start with effective communication. This means giving every employee a platform to share their insights and ideas while nurturing a company culture that rewards this initiative. A platform should provide the necessary structure to gather, compile, evaluate, and execute all submitted ideas. Depending on a company’s current resources, a roadmap is created that sets achievable goals to keep up the momentum of the innovation process. The key here is to maintain oversight from ideation all the way to adoption. 

Throughout the innovation process, it is important that all stakeholders, whether internal or external, are informed and involved. This is where an organization’s true competencies are able to shine. Much like citizen development, innovation management can only be successful if every person within the organization is involved and allowed to contribute. 

Not All Roads Lead To Rome

Rather than taking a shotgun approach in the hope that a new idea will come to fruition by chance, innovation management strives for an intentional disciplinary workflow, i.e., taking innovative steps with purpose. It’s all about following the right process and principles to reach the desired outcome. An innovation manager is the dedicated person who creates and manages the overall process, making sure that teams have the necessary resources to accomplish the goals set out in the roadmap. 

If you’re not familiar with the process yet, taking the first step to innovation can make room for a lot of dubiety. However, despite its abstract nature, the road to innovation management is paved with milestones one can adhere to to make the process as streamlined as possible. The end goal for all innovation projects is the successful implementation and adoption of a revolutionary concept.

Getting From Ideation to Recognition in Six Steps

  1. Generating ideation: Innovation begins by generating ideas from various sources within the organization. A company culture that fosters collaboration and sharing of ideas will be much more successful in yielding innovative success. The fewer communicative barriers there are between departments and higher management, the more likely employees are to give their unique insights. It is then imperative that these ideas be submitted to a centralized portal so they can be sorted and prioritized without interfering with day-to-day operations.
  2. Prioritization of capabilities: When moving forward with an idea, the next step is identifying the necessary competencies. This can include people, departments, skills, resources, and timeframes. Having the right people in the right positions means that roadblocks can be solved much quicker or avoided altogether. Cross-departmental communication is necessary to identify the capabilities needed to realize the innovation efforts. 
  3. Mapping out structure: Mapping out the essential requirements and stakeholders needed for the innovation project is the most important factor in getting the show on the road. By creating a structure in line with the capabilities, it becomes clear what needs to be done and whom it needs to be done. An accurate timeframe until delivery can be established when the overall structure has been carefully outlined. 
  4. Product development: In this stage, the designated stakeholders develop the selected ideas into tangible products, processes, applications, or services. Most think that all the hard work is done in this phase, but in reality, the other stages require just as much effort as the development stage. By carefully pre-determining the capabilities and structure beforehand, the overall development process is much smoother and more likely to achieve the desired outcome. 
  5. Implementation and Adoption: New innovations can be integrated into existing products and processes to augment them or be their own stand-alone solutions. The key to success here is that the end product is something that people want to use. Therefore, great care and attention must be given to the overall usability of the product for it to be adopted properly. Should this fail, there is no shame in taking a step back and reiterating by going through the previous stages again.
  6. Reward and Recognition: Proper reward systems need to be in place for innovation to really take hold within an organization and avoid being a one-off stint. If employees feel recognized and rewarded for their efforts, ideas, and input, they are much more likely to continue doing so. Having innovation as a continuous effort means that companies can stay ahead of the competition rather than play catch-up all the time.

These are the general guidelines for managing the innovation process through disciplines. The more complex a project, the more time and care are needed to complete every step. Additional steps can be added in line with the organization’s traditional workflow and processes.

Different approaches to innovation

By following the steps mentioned above, teams are able to give innovative endeavors a predictable outcome despite their unpredictable nature. It’s all about being in control of the changes made to a product, service, or organization as a whole. To further ensure successful innovation, it is important to gauge the overall impact once the desired end result is achieved. Of course, unless you’re clairvoyant, knowing the exact outcome is impossible and may either come as a pleasant surprise or not. However, having a rough estimate of what is going to happen after the innovation process is completed will help a team to anticipate the type of innovation that they're working towards. 

Four Types of Innovation

Incremental innovation: Being agile doesn’t automatically equate to being fast. Companies can choose a framework where they implement small, continuous innovation efforts and validate changes rigorously. Over time, these incremental improvements add up and result in a more sustainable product.

Sustainable innovation: Some companies are able to take large strides on the path to innovation. Unfortunately, many don’t have this luxury due to budget constraints or limited manpower. Incremental innovation offers the opportunity to improve upon existing frameworks and products rather than completely reinventing the wheel.  

Breakthrough innovation: This type of innovation can occur in well-developed markets where change has been stagnant for a while. A breakthrough can completely overhaul the way that a product or service is used by consumers while keeping the product's principles the same. 

Disruptive innovation: This approach is high-risk, high-reward. A positive outcome is not guaranteed, but if it occurs, the entire market will be disrupted. A paradigm shift in market leadership will follow. Disruptive innovation usually happens by bringing entirely new products or concepts to market.

Achieving Innovation with Citizen Development

Innovation Management and Citizen Development have key components in common: they both need human collaboration to succeed. Whether it’s tech, marketing, sales, or customer service-related, you need to have the right people in place for innovation processes to work, just like with Citizen Development. Likewise, they both strive for the same outcome: successful implementation and adoption. By combining the two strategies, a company can foster a culture of innovation in a disciplined and structured framework.

The key deciding factor here is the empowerment of employees. Low-code platforms give organizations all the resources needed for people to take the reigns in the development process of new digital solutions. This can be done by creating an in-house Ideation Portal, for example. Low-code, or even no-code, can be used to set up the technological framework where citizen developers can log and manage their innovative ideas. In addition, low-code can then also be used to facilitate citizen development by creating new tools and applications according to the submitted ideas within the Ideation Portal. Breaking down barriers in which information is shared and received means that people are much more keen to do so. 

Interested in learning more about how innovation management through low-code can benefit your team or organization? Join our Principles of Low-Code First Innovation Management.