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Innovation is big business, and has fast become a daily operational concern for all forward-thinking brands. But not everyone has figured out how to move ideas forward efficiently – or at all. Here’s why.

  1. No system for ideation

Ideas don’t magically appear at the perfect time and place. If you don’t have a system to encourage and track ideation, you won’t be able to resolve these common ideation challenges:

  • Not enough ideas coming in
  • Ideas coming in aren’t worth pursuing
  • Good ideas are falling through the cracks

Each issue will keep you from moving beyond the act of brainstorming – and ideas without action are worthless. You need to encourage ideation across your organization, and incentivize the process of sorting through and voting on ideas for next stages.

  1. No follow-through beyond ideation

Once you have ideas worth implementing, you need a protocol for tracking what happens next so your efforts aren’t wasted. There are a number of next steps you can take:

  • Polling employees, clients, and social audiences to gauge interest/excitement
  • Fundraising to create prototypes
  • Building prototypes and marketplace testing
  • Measuring success of new product/service to inform the next level of production

Someone needs to be in charge of moving things along and tracking progress at each stage. An innovation team leader is a must for coordinating the efforts of multiple people and business units across what is ultimately a long-term journey.

  1. Inconsistent effort

Innovation takes time and practice – meaning you have to be working at it every day to come up with something great. That’s regardless of whether you’re looking for an earth-shattering idea, or something small that makes your company run more efficiently.

You won’t hit on an amazing idea with your first attempt – and even if you do, you may fail somewhere else along the way. There are a lot of moving parts between a great idea and a finished product.

Think of it this way: Olympic athletes practice for hours every day even when the next competition is months away – because that’s the only way to be ready.

By the same token, if you innovate sporadically, you’re minimizing your chances of success.

Solutions for successful innovation

With so much to manage, manual tracking isn’t really an option for any business of size. Like CRM, social analytics, and other business functions, automation is the answer for the issues noted above.

Innovation apps have allowed brands like Southwest Airlines to “capture, manage, and provide feedback on customers and employee ideas to continually enhance the customer experience” – and that’s everything.

Speaking of the customer experience – you can’t create a great one without incorporating design thinking into your innovation process. Remember who you’re innovating for as you create your process.

The most important component for innovation success

While innovation software and apps are the answer to most problems, they won’t solve every problem.

There’s no app for making innovation a top-down concern – and it doesn’t matter how great your ideas are if no one is interested in ensuring they move forward. It takes top-down buy-in to ensure there’s enough enthusiasm and participation in ideation, prototyping, and follow-up. Not to mention enough money to see projects through.

Those in the C-suite need to recognize that while innovation tasks can be delegated, their support and commitment is needed to create the culture of innovation that will drive participation and ultimately ensure success.

Without it, you’ll just be going through the motions – and even the most brilliant of ideas will be destined to fail.

If you don’t want that responsibility, embrace the future that’s already here, and use technology to streamline your process – or you’ll be left behind by those who do.