Can innovation be formalized into a process?
Coca-Cola believes the answer to that intriguing question is yes.
While attending the recent Customer Needs Discovery & Innovation Congress sponsored by the Management Roundtable, I heard a presentation on this topic by Richard Staten, senior manager for innovation business development at Coke. (See, they not only have a process, they have job titles to go with it.)
Staten laid out, in broad strokes, what Coke is trying to do. (He didn’t provide a lot of detail, apparently because the lawyers at Coke don’t like employees to give away too much.)
Coke has developed what it calls CIF – the Common Innovation Framework. That framework consists of three parts: Idea generation (“Feed the Pipeline”), pipeline and portfolio management, or PPM (“Manage the Pipeline”), and stages and gates (“Execute the Pipeline”).
The goal is to build ideas into screened concepts. The steps in the process include:
- Source Concepts and Ideas
- Assess Strategic Fit and Potential Value
- Build Concept Statements
- Screen with Consumers and Shoppers
- Submit “winners” at Stages and Gates
The screening is an especially important part of the process. Coke uses a variety of methodology to recruit and develop panels, and to obtain input from them. They also use a variety of analytics to evaluate ideas.
One example Staten cited of a product whose development and marketing were influenced by this process is Diet Coke Plus, a new version of Diet Coke with vitamins and minerals added.
As I said, his presentation was at a high level, so it was a bit difficult to see exactly how this process works.
But I thought it was a topic worth discussing here. Product development is just as much a part of business success as actual manufacturing, and having a process to do that is the start of a lean approach.
One of our more popular books is The Toyota Product Development System, by James Morgan and Jeffrey Liker, which also focuses on this key issue.
Is innovation the result of process as well as pure creativity? How does your company focus on innovation? Post your comments below.