How to start an innovation project?

What is Innovation?

There are many definitions of innovation, I see innovation as creative ideas that generate new values for business.

Holistic Innovation involves many stakeholders across various functions, whereas smaller-scale innovation address specific business needs in product, brand, sales and marketing, manufacturing, customer service, or certain operation process etc…

With changing market dynamics and increasingly demanding customers, many organization are facing challenges to sustain growth.

Many managements are desperately seeking changes to survive.

The question is how to start innovate?

how to start an innovation project

1. Know your why & objectives

Why your business needs innovation?

There will be different answers depending on the status of your business and the challenges that you are facing.

Some looking for new product ideas to sell, some want to build stronger brands, so want to streamline operational processes and improve efficiency etc. Some leader looking for short term sales fix, and some willing to invest for long term win.

Here, I will focus on those businesses looking for sustainable growth through the development of stronger products and brands to better serve customer needs.

2. Define the scope of work & internal resource

You need to look at market trends, and opportunities to continue improve product design, feature and benefits, as well as create more delight in user experience. You also need to know who are your best customers, and who rejects your product/brand. What do they like or dislike about your product/brand?

To continue elevate the brand positioning, you also need to reinforce the brand equities that attracts premium customers, and build new equities to drive growth with the trend.

You also need to keep update on your sales and marketing channels, reach and engage target customers cost-effectively online and offline. And how to leverage creativity and technology to target and close sales effectively.

Technology-wise, you also want to leverage BigData and AI, AR & VR etc to help bring in new insights and experiences to differentiate and enhance your product & brand value propositions.

You may have experience managers who are specialised in one function, and does not know much about other functions. Some managers are simply waiting for retirement and resistant to changes; and there are managers afraid of failure and do not have the courage to try new things. There are also young managers who want to innovate by lack of experience to influence and execute ideas…

If you are lucky, you should find a senior manager who are passionate about innovations, and have an entrepreneurship spirit & great communication & operation skill to lead multi-functional teams.

However, these type of talents are hard to find even within the fortune 500, as traditional organisation trains specialisation, where innovations requires cross industry and multi-discipline experience to broaden perspectives.

3. Spend wisely on external resource

Time is money, and innovate with speed is critical to winning in the digital age. However, many organisation might not have all the right talent and resources to lead & execute innovation projects effectively.

Some organisation will decided to seek external consulting firms for help. However, it often makes the innovation project even more complex with additional teams and consultants who only specialised in certain fields in Product Development, Branding and Advertising etc….

Even you invested a lot of time and money to get help from the top agencies, many innovation projects fails to deliver results with really bad ROI.

Some fail because the external agency spend a lot of time on strategy and theory, but fail to understand the business operation and execution constraints as they do not have hands-on experience.

Some fail because business rely too much on external “expertise” and fail to participate and articulate true business challenges.

Many others failed due to lack of clear project ownership within the organisation and lack of holistic visions to lead innovation dynamics inside and outside the organization.

Having the right internal project owner will increase the chance of your success by 10 folds! (Will share on this on a separate post, signup our newsleter so you wont miss it.)

4. Innovate fast & watch you ROI

Innovation project is hard and complex, and failure is a part of its nature.

If your objective is to develop a sustainable business growth, innovation is NOT a one-off project. The business leader should see innovation as a long term competitive edge and to build capability inside the organization instead of relying soley on external help.


First, no one understands the business more than the business leader and internal staffs, especially when it comes to execution.

Secondly, it will be a lot more fast to execute the innovation when the internal teams are on-board and take ownership fo the project.

Thirdly, it is more cost-effective to utilise internal resource IF you got the right talent.

Lastly, use external consultants on experience that your organisation are lacking, AND leverage the consultants to train your staffs, so you can build capabilities to run future innovation projects internally!

5. Build innovation capabilities & culture

Technology and customer needs are moving fast, and organisations have no choice but need to keep innovating to compete in the market.

Building innovation capabilities within organisation is not an option, especially for those who want to grow sustainability.

However, innovation is requires the right mindset and capabilities. And at its core, a management style and culture of entrepreneurship that embrace failure as learning, plus a passion to create new values for customers and business.

We are at the exciting time of the digital age, where new technology empower customers with transparency and choices. Where BigData and AI tools to help organisations to make decisions smarter & operation more efficient, mobile & web technology help enrich customer experience with new tools like IOTs, AR/VR/MR, Drones… And Robotics, 3D printing & fabrication liberate new ways of manufacturing and supply chain ecosystem.

Organisations who innovate fast with the market & technology will continue to wins the heart and pocket of customers, and those refuse to change will soon become history.


Innovation is not easy, but building the right talent and culture is a lot harder. Only those leaders who are determined to build a strong and sustainable business will invest to nurture innovation talents and culture, and openly encourage new ideas and embrace failure, and boldly disrupt the markets to win customers.

I have to say, having a bold and visionary top management team to support innovation will be the best blessing to win in the digital age!

All in all, it is easy to start an innovation project is you have the right leader inside the organisation. The project leader who know where to start and able to set clear scope of work and vision to mobilised multi-functional teams. If there is no right talent internally to lead the project, make sure your hire the right innovation consultants who have experiences in both strategy and execution, so your internal team can learn the skills and build capabilities to innovate continuously in the future.

Driving innovation is easy when you got the right talents inside your organisation, and when innovation becomes a natural culture. When your staffs are continually learning and adopt new technology, creative ideas to better serve customers and do things more efficiently, it forms a strong force to propel sustainable growth in your business.

Don’t forget to have fun during the innovation journey!

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