Generating ideas can be difficult, time consuming and frustrating, and as a result many organisations and individuals dedicate a large portion of their innovation initiative to mastering this skill. Yet generating ideas is just one aspect of innovation, and the question of what happens to these ideas once they have been formed is of vital importance. How do you translate your idea into an opportunity? Once you have a basic business model in place, how do you scale up and move your idea towards being a successful, growing initiative?
Here are some top tips for scaling your innovative idea.
CREATE A STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS
One of the most important factors in scaling an innovation is having a step-by-step plan for how you will reach your end goal. It is important not only to recognise the stages of scaling, but also to detail the specifics of what you want to achieve in each of these stages, so as to avoid confusion and inefficiency later down the line.
IDIA, the International Development Innovation Alliance, has produced a helpful whitepaper which details what an innovation-scaling process could look like. Although the IDIA is a knowledge exchange platform providing insights in an international development context, many of the processes it details are transferable across industries.
The whitepaper outlines six stages of innovation scaling: ideation, research and development (R&D), proof of concept, transition to scale, scaling and sustainable scale. For example, IDIA suggests that the 4th phase, ‘transition to scale’, should involve innovations that have demonstrated small-scale success and now require development of their model and attracting partners to help fill gaps in their capacity to scale. Additionally, the 5th phase, ‘scale’, requires ‘replicating and/or adapting an innovation across large geographies and populations for transformational impact.’ Knowing which stage you are at in the scaling process is vital if you are going to remain on track and reach impact targets within your given deadline.
There is a tendency when discussing innovation to think of a lone inventor or creative sitting in an isolated space, cut off from the distractions of the outside world and focused on thinking differently. Yet when it comes to scaling innovation, this is not an accurate representation of reality.
A central tenet of scaling innovation is building partnerships. According to an article by Rockefeller Foundation VP, Zia Khan, ‘scale means partnerships.’ Khan explains when it comes to scaling, ‘we plan for how to use our unique assets—our brand, convening power, networks, and flexible funding [and] think about how it can help catalyze others to contribute their unique assets as well.’
Khan argues that by researching the market at hand in depth, each piece of knowledge ‘will directly inform how we craft a potential intervention—and which pre-existing actors and innovations we can bring together to scale up a solution.’ By playing to the strengths of each partner and adopting a collaborative approach to scaling your innovation, it is possible to push your idea to the next level.
BE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL
Just as revolutionary ideas are not generated overnight, scaling an innovation takes time, dedication, and a long-term approach.
According to an article by the Huffington Post, ‘we need to let go of the myth that all it takes is a bright idea. Edison’s famous quote that genius is “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” is dead on. Getting an idea to scale is a long, hard slog.’
For the Huffington Post, dismantling these myths that scale happens overnight is a must, since ‘it takes a concerted effort to build user demand for a product or service.’ The article adds that ‘even if an innovation can dramatically improve lives, the intended user might not see it that way. And, of course, it can’t make an impact if people don’t know about it.’ Although committing time and effort to a project is no easy feat, it is this commitment that will transform an initial idea into a truly innovative breakthrough.
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