How to innovate a business in 10 steps

Cycle of Innovation

How to innovate a business in 10 steps

The complexity of innovation

Many companies struggle with innovation. Time and money is being spent, but the results fall behind. The necessity of change is apparent but the knowledge and experience is lacking to translate it into a solid approach. Let alone an effective organization that is able to progress and stay on course. The complexity of their own innovation processes seems stifling, while at the same time the speed of innovation in the world surrounding them seems to keep on accelerating.

How to get a grip on innovation

In the 15+ years that I have been supporting organizations, big and small, I found out that when it comes to innovation they all face the same challenges. They make similar mistakes and in the end they have to take the same steps to get it right. Over the years I started identifying each of these steps and their relations to one-an-other, building a framework to manage innovation in a structured way. This framework turned out to be the foundation of the Cycle of Innovation.

The Cycle of Innovation

This is the first of a series of eleven posts in which I will explain The Cycle of Innovation, a method that has helped me over the years in supporting various organizations to innovate effectively. It exists of 10 steps. Following these steps organizations can setup and improve the way they manage innovation yielding better results. Every week I will get into one of these steps. Today I start with providing you with an overview of the Cycle of Innovation and its separate steps.

The Cycle of Innovation offers insight, structure and focus

The Cycle of Innovation is a pragmatic method with which you easily gain insights in how innovation in your organization can be improved, The method offers tools to lay a foundation for innovation, tools to set course, and it helps you in building an organization that is able to meet the innovation goals. The Cycle of Innovation is no rocket science, it does not go into the depth, many elements are based on proven innovation management techniques such as Leanstartup, Design Thinking and Google’s Sprintbook. The strength of the Cycle of Innovation is that it is a simple, highly pragmatic and applicable for any organization, in any industry, profit or non-profit, ranging from SME to Fortune500.

In short the Cycle of Innovation

The Cycle of Innovation starts with the notion that innovation is no longer being done in splendid solitude in laboratories but it happens in collaboration with surrounding parties (1). With the input of the ecosystem you gain insights in the real reasons why you need to innovate (2). Once you know why you can define what the minimum is that innovation should deliver and when (3). You investigate how you are able to meet these innovation goals (4). And make a plan to realize it (5). In step 6 you validate the hypotheses that you made in previous steps (6). Next you invite all parties in your eco-system to help (7). Based on your innovation goals and your plan you build an effective organization (8) and introduce a continuously learning, entrepreneurial culture focused on innovation (9). The last step of the Cycle focuses on monitoring progress, gaining insights and adjusting course (10). And then it is time to look outside and start the Cycle all over again.

The 10 steps of the Cycle of Innovation


Step #1: Open up – Go from ego-system to eco-system

Step #2: Why – Discover the reasons you have to change

Step #3: What – Set the goals for innovation

Step #4: How – Envision the future role

Step #5: Plan – How to make it happen

Step#6: Check – Validate the viability

Step#7: Engage – Invite the eco-system to help

Step#8: Organize – Structure and set governance

Step #9: Execute – Supercharge, prioritize and focus

Step #10: Monitor – Measure, learn, pivot and persevere


Do you like to comment? Let’s start the conversation.

What are your experiences in how innovation is managed? Can you relate to the steps of the Cycle? Do you know inspiring examples of organizations that are doing it well? Or failing miserably? The Cycle of Innovation is explained in the book “Grip op Innovatie” together with the stories of five big Dutch companies: ASML, DSM, Philips, KPN en KLM.


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