The four stages of innovation management identified by the ExtremeFactories project are as follows:
This stage is similar to the idea stage of a traditional innovation approach. The ExtremeFactories project understands the inception stage of innovation as the place where ideas grow within the company. Ideas may come from:
- internal suggestion mailboxes
- direct requests from customers asking for specific features for a product
- the analysis of market trends
- the analysis of new technologies or research projects
The inception stage involves all the resources from the company but it also may count on third parties such as customers or suppliers. This stage has to do with:
- Identification of problems, generation of ideas and problem solving
- Creation of a repository for innovation projects
- Creation of the appropriate environmental conditions to foster Creativity. The creativity process is an intense collaborative process for generating and exploring ideas meant to provide an innovative solution to a particular problem. During this process, team members go through cycles of divergence, in which new ideas are generated and explored, and convergence, in which new ideas are valued and detailed
- Opening the organization to ideas coming from the previously identified sources, offering the chance to provide all the participants with similarity matching whenever an idea is proposed (by applying Classical Rule-Based Reasoning and Case-Based Reasoning approaches), in combination with ontologies. The investigation on ‘similarity’ of ideas and needs represents a new contribution of this project, since attributes of an idea, or a need, to identify similarity will have to be defined.
There is not a similar stage in the traditional innovation approach. The ExtremeFactories project understands the prioritization stage of innovation as the moment for the company to deeply analyze the repository of innovation projects and schedule them in an effective way. [Ozer, 2005] defines prioritization as a process of settling ideas in accordance to their importance for a selection team. After gathering potential ideas, the next step is to screen them and select the most suitable ones for further development or implementation.
This stage is related to the R&D and Manufacturing/Design stages of a traditional innovation approach. The ExtremeFactories project understands the implementation stage of innovation as the moment to implement the innovative projects that have been scheduled in the previous stage. This stage deals with creating the necessary conditions to favor research and technical development activities, to compose teams, to search for financing for the implementation or to schedule manufacturing.
This stage is related to the marketing stage in the traditional innovation approach, though it includes many other issues. The ExtremeFactories project understands the follow-up stage of innovation as the moment to evaluate the effectiveness of the innovative project that has been previously implemented. In that way, different approaches will be followed depending on the type of innovation project that has been conducted:
- To measure the effectiveness of an innovative process it will be necessary to gather specific indicators from the process and assess them against predefined thresholds
- To measure the effectiveness of a new commercial product it will be necessary to perform specific market studies and evaluate the results against the expectations of the company
Moreover, at this stage, the company will already have an innovation repository, keeping information about all the previous stages, with all the actions and decisions taken, from the basic idea to the final result. In that way, the repository will also store the effectiveness of the methods, techniques and tools used to implement the innovation project.