Most business leaders know that innovation is important in the same way that an umpire understands why a player can’t run straight to second base. It’s an accepted parameter that if ignored, would fundamentally change the game.

In fact, 61% of CEOs worldwide say that Innovation is a primary concern within their business according to PWC. Multi-national companies and small business agree the need to continually refine their business with new ideas is top of mind. And it’s for a good reason.

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Companies that innovate outperform. According to Bain, companies that do well with innovation programs grow 3 times faster than their peers over 5 years. So why isn’t every company focusing on innovation programs?

The answer is surprisingly simple. Most companies struggle to achieve true innovation, despite acknowledging its importance because they don’t know how to build a pipeline for ideas.

In the same way that an umpire who makes a bad call instantly angers the crowd, business leaders who fail to implement a repeatable process for innovation — one that allows them to generate and act on great ideas over and over, successfully — are basically just blindly swinging at pitches and hoping that, at some point, they’ll hit something that flies.

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Here are five steps to starting a program to manage innovation at your company. No matter what the size.

1. Run Challenges

“Challenges” are the evolution of social communities. A challenge has the added structure that makes a community a purposeful space for collaborating on specific business needs. A challenge should be sponsored by a business stakeholder, relate to a business need and have a timeline to be started and finished.

2. Surface Opportunities

While only a few ideas may be selected from the challenge, this phase sets the organization up by building its idea pipeline. As you’ve received ideas from your challenge, you’ll need to decide which ideas will have the highest business impact and select the top prospects to take to the next stage.

3. Project Planning

The biggest payoff in this step is to bring members into the process immediately and leverage technologies that can help you collaborate in real time. Better alignment and commitment on resources, schedules and budgets are the outcome of a great planning step.

4. Project Management

Projects should be managed by the best person for the job, not necessarily the project management specialist. Lean, agile teams coordinate the everyday projects—with traditional professional project managers taking on the more complex duties. Select your project manager based on their expertise in the idea not their expertise in project management.

5. Repeat

Do it all over again.

This piece was originally published on the Salesforce blog. View the original post here.