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Why Your Innovation Funnel Needs an Overhaul: A Step-by-Step Guide

Traditionally the Innovation funnel is a stage-gate process that organizations use to define their approach to ideation. Businesses that adopt this usually start off by narrowing down their challenges, gathering ideas around them, reviewing said ideas, and then implementing them. However, here at Qmarkets we believe that this is only one part of a greater innovation funnel.     

We have created a unique vision of the innovation funnel which incorporates the full spectrum of innovation activity. In this blog, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide to our ‘Innovation Ecosystem’, providing you with multiple ways to discover and manage innovations at your enterprise.

A Unique Innovation Funnel

Qmarkets’ Innovation Ecosystem a unique innovation funnel that includes the full spectrum of innovation activities.

The Qmarkets Innovation Ecosystem is made up of 3 main phases: Front End Discovery, Innovate & Craft, and Commercialize. Each phase is designed so that you can tap into many potential sources of inspiration and insight, using varied systems and processes to develop ideas, and eventually manage the delivery of bottom-line outcomes and deliverables.

Now let’s dive into each phase and explore how you can maximize your innovation ROI.


Front End Discovery  

The standard innovation funnel is kicked off with an idea generation phase, yet this does not focus on the strategic inspiration for idea challenges – these being a specific topic or issue that you wish to ideate around. In our experience, your innovation funnel needs to include ways to constantly supply ideation by generating a steady flow of inspiration to do so.

  • Trends & External Data Providers

Your company’s infrastructure is not just made up of your employees but of your external stakeholders too. Monitoring and partnering with a variety of external data providers such as customers, business partners, startups, academia, and expert communities, provides your organization with a steady influx of insights from sources that are influential to your business. Utilizing these to understand the developments and trends within your industry allows your organization to stay ahead of the curve. Analyzing trend (trend analysis tool) data for its relevancy to your business and subsequently the possible scenarios in which they could impact you, provides grounds for further exploration. Your experts, partners, and employees can ideate further around this information to share their insights so that you can decide on what is viable and potentially rewarding for your organization to pursue, or indeed ignore. Every insight gives your organization an opportunity to explore the potential impact it could have on your business and give your experts an opportunity to ideate for solutions, improvements, and more.

Innovate & Craft 

Once you have gathered insights and trends etc. who do you want to be involved in solving these challenges? It is important to identify who your audiences are and have a solid understanding of how you would like to use them (these can overlap with your customer and data providers). Our innovation funnel has so far utilized external sources, but it is in this phase that you should also incorporate internal resources.

  • Strategic & Company Goals

This is usually where the standard innovation funnel begins, using your organization’s goals and strategy to define what to ideate around. Of course, we see this as only one part of the puzzle, but it is no less important. At this stage, your strategic and company goals may be influenced by insights garnered during the front-end discovery phase and the external ecosystem, yet most likely they will be influenced by internal factors. Leadership will have goals determined by factors such as revenue, culture, and operational costs etc., whilst employees will have a plethora of ideas on process improvements, new products, and customer feedback, etc. From here, you will have an overarching view of your industry and organization, sourced from internal and external experts; now you can pinpoint where you would like to focus your ideation efforts and what you would like to establish as idea challenges.

  • Ideating Around Your Strategic Challenges

This is perhaps the most important stage of the entire innovation ecosystem; here your external and internal audiences share their ideas on your organization’s chosen topics, derived from the previous stages of the funnel. Innovation is successful when you have gathered as many ideas as possible to source solutions to your organization’s challenges resulting in new opportunities, competitive advantage, and happier employees and customers. After which, your audiences can review and evaluate the ideas so that only the most promising will move further through the innovation funnel.

“Innovation is successful when you have gathered as many ideas as possible to source solutions to your organization’s challenges”

  • Scouting

Ideation will most likely have generated new opportunities and identified gaps in your existing offerings and so these ideas must be evaluated to confirm whether these can be implemented internally. However, this is not feasible for every organization due to budget constraints, lack of resources, and so on. So, within our innovation funnel, scouting is including as an activity to mitigate this. Instead of developing ideas solely within your organization, our scouting software allows you to manage opportunities for joint-ventures, mergers, partnerships, and acquisitions that can deliver innovation. This means that you can go to market quicker, reducing competitor advantage, and offering a more well-rounded product to your clients.


After thoroughly evaluating your organization’s ideas and judging whether scouting is an option or not, the next stage is to internally develop the idea and see whether it is viable for market. If an idea progresses it can then be officially launched, and its ROI can be assessed. Post-launch, you will most likely receive further insights, expert feedback, and ideas that will lead you to adjust and refine your product, re-starting the cycle of your innovation ecosystem.

  • Incubate Concept, Prototype & Experiment.

Now your organization must deliver the idea. This can be a small process improvement or the construction of a whole new product. For larger ideas, R&D may need to develop prototypes and experiment, resulting in further ideation to make sure that an optimized product is being created. Therefore, it is incredibly important to ensure that each idea is project managed appropriately to ensure an efficient and successful delivery.

  • ROI

Perhaps the most essential step is to measure the ROI of an idea. Implementing new ideas requires budget, time, and resources, so it is important to understand whether the implementation has been worth it. This continues the need for ideation, especially when a launched idea doesn’t have the impact that is should, requiring further ideas for improvement and optimization. Your learnings here will influence new idea challenges, scouting possibilities, opportunities to utilize open innovation, and continue your innovation ecosystem’s cycle.

Implementing Your Innovation Ecosystem

The beauty of the innovation ecosystem funnel is that whilst providing a workflow of the full strategic range of innovation activity, it is also possible to only adopt as many steps as your organization deems neccessary. For example, you may only wish to implement an employee innovation program, using employee ideas to tackle your company’s strategic challenges and goals. Or you may wish to establish a scouting program to hunt for emerging technologies to partner with. The full innovation ecosystem is there to provide a structure for you to adopt as many innovation activities as you wish.

“The beauty of the Innovation Ecosystem funnel is that whilst providing a workflow of the full strategic range of innovation activity, it is also possible to only adopt as many steps as your organization deems necessary”

Qmarkets have developed tools for every step of our innovation funnel, so that are you are able to implement, manage, scale, and measure your innovation activity across any stage of the funnel that you choose. The unique workflows within each individual module can be configured to your precise specifications, so that the system is tailored to your unique existing innovation processes. By adopting one practice, it makes it easier to scale up and expand your program by adding additional modules.

Adopting the full suite of innovation activities will establish a strategic innovation funnel that will provide a constant and varied influx of innovative inspiration and insight for your organization to utilize. Fundamentally delivering opportunities that will stimulate bottom line revenue, enhance your competitive edge, and improve your employee and customer experience.

Curious to find out how others have implemented Qmarkets’ innovation funnel? Then read our case study with Swiss Post which explores the bottom line results they achieved via their innovation management program.’

Julie Hermans Author
Julie Hermans

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