ISE Blog

The Innovation Engine (Part 2)

In my previous post, I introduced the idea of the Minimally Viable Innovation System (MVIS) as a low cost repeatable process that companies can implement to drive innovation in their organizations. In this blog post, I will describe in general terms how this process works, and how it can be implemented in 90 days.

Step One: Define your Innovation Buckets (Day 1-30)

During the first 30 days, the Innovation team defines the type of innovation the team is pursuing. The choice is easy, it is either core growth or new growth. Core innovation typically follows the current strategy, offers rapid returns and is managed by the main business. New growth usually pushes the frontiers of strategy, offers long-term returns, and is typically managed outside the main business. After you have identified the type of innovation, the team needs to assess the gap between what current operations will produce and where you want to be in five years. Filling this “growth gap” then drives the team to step two.

Step Two: Zero In on a Few Strategic Opportunities (Day 20-50)

Around Day 20 of the process, the team needs to start doing research on how to effectively fill the growth gap. A frequent practice is to meet with a dozen or so customers to interview them and to probe for unmet needs. In addition to customer interviews, the team should begin investigating developments within the industry and look at ideas that are currently bubbling up inside their company. Once the research is finished, the team should pull together their senior leadership team for a half day workshop to pick two or three opportunities that meet the following criteria:

  • A job that many people need to get done—but that no one is doing well
  • A technology that makes it faster, cheaper, better, or a creative opportunity that drives demand
  • A capability that gives you an advantage in the market that competitors can’t easily copy

Step Three: Form a Small Development Team (Day 20-70)

Dedicating a small, focused team of innovators is crucial to success. If 75% of venture backed start-ups fail, and 50% of start-ups don’t make it to their fourth year, how can a team of innovators that are splitting their time between their day jobs and an innovation project succeed? It is a good best practice to have at least one person dedicated full time to the project to give it focus. The team does not need to be big. A 3-5 person team can be sufficient. During this third step, the Innovation team holds a workshop that lasts for several days. In this workshop the team should do the following:

Step Four: Create a Mechanism to Shepherd Projects (Day 45-90)

To keep the Innovation Engine running and producing more than the initial project, organizations need to set up an oversight group to manage the on-going process. This group would have the authority to start, stop or re-direct innovation projects. The oversight group should follow the best practices of the venture capital industry. First, they should assign a champion to each project. Second, they should set clear spending thresholds. Third, projects should get additional funding only after they meet key milestones that show tangible progress and business results.


The MVIS system is a low cost agile approach that can be implemented in 90 days. ISE did not create this methodology. We are leveraging a proven approach that is documented in the December 2014 Harvard Business Review article entitled, Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days.

Want to learn more? ISE has a small team of Innovation experts lead by Mark Schumacher, Vice President of Innovation. If you are interested in applying this process and these concepts, Mark and his team would be happy to help you implement them. 

Scott Berry, Vice President Professional Services

Scott Berry, Vice President Professional Services

Scott is responsible for the overall business operations for ISE’s Professional Services. Prior to joining ISE, Scott held various leadership positions in Sales, Marketing and Channel Management, Program Management, and Business Development with Rockwell Automation/Allen-Bradley, Rockwell Collins, and Intermec Technologies, now part of Honeywell Scanning and Mobility. When not working, Scott enjoys riding his road bike around the hills of Iowa, reading, and spending time with his lovely wife and three daughters.

Scott Berry, Vice President Professional Services

Latest posts by Scott Berry, Vice President Professional Services (see all)

The Innovation Engine (Part 2) Jun 22, 2017

The Innovation Engine (Part 1) Jun 01, 2017

Planting Seeds of Innovation Jan 10, 2017

Three Things I learned at the Strata + Hadoop Conference Oct 13, 2016