Innovation Life Cycle


"The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation." — Bob Iger

What are the key stages in an innovation life cycle?

What is the end-to-end value chain for bringing innovation to market?

In "Smart Spenders, the Global Innovation 1000," an article in strategy+business magazine, Barry Jaruzelski, Kevin Dehoff, and Rakesh Bordia write about the four key stages of innovation that the 94 high-leverage innovators have in common.

Four Stages of Innovation

According to Jaruzelski, Dehoff, and Bordia, the four key stages of innovation are:

  • Stage 1. Ideation – Basic research and conception.
  • Stage 2. Project Selection – The decision to invest.
  • Stage 3. Product Development – Building the product or service.
  • Stage 4. Commercialization – Bringing the product or service to market and adapting it to customer demands.

What High-Leverage Innovators Do

High-leverage innovators build better capabilities along the value chain to drive innovation towards real results.

Jaruzelski, Dehoff, and Borida write:

"Based on press coverage and interviews with executives, we conclude that each of the 94 high-leverage innovators has built sufficiently strong capabilities in all four links of the value chain, and has seamlessly integrated them, to provide a high level of performance over time."

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Use the frame to analyze improvement opportunities.  I found this frame helpful for thinking about the end-to-end cycle for innovation.  After all, what good are ideas if you can’t bring them to market.  A lot of ideas get stuck in the ideation stage.
  • Walk your innovation cycle.  By walking your end-to-end system for bringing your ideas to end-users, you can find ways to reduce friction or find places to build synergies.
  • Optimize your system over a stage.  Debottlenecking your end-to-end system is more effective than optimizing just a single stage.

If innovation isn’t working for you, maybe you haven’t baked it into the building blocks of your business quite the right way.

Walk your innovation and life cycle and see where you can tune and improve it along the way.

You Might Also Like

4 Stages of Market Maturity
High-Leverage Strategies for Innovation
3 Keys for a Successful Innovation
Innovation Objectives
Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration

Photo by ralphbijker


  1. I can easily map these 4 to blogging ;). It actually helps identifying big mistakes along the way, eh?

  2. Most of us give up right when we are on the cusp of success. We don’t push that last little bit to get over the hump. As a blogger, I know I need to optimize my system during each stage.

    When I optimize I’m letting my creativity out of it’s box. That’s when the fun kicks in.

  3. I am a great ideas person but often get bored with the process, especially if I have to work alone (on everything), I have no problem if the team wants to run ahead with my idea and they usually have success, and I can problem-solve along the way too, but I rarely finish the idea if I have to work at it, slog it through alone.

    I printed off a copy of this post…and put it up by my to do list as I have not data entered all the financial things this month since finishing income taxes…! Thank you

  4. Great topic as Alik said we can apply it to our blog, we can apply it most thing we do. Very useful and easy to understand.
    Thanks for your sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  5. @ Alik

    Good point. It’s like incremental and iteratively sharing, while being selective in the process.

    @ Karl

    Blogging is a good example. By thinking in stages, it’s easy to decide where to spend your energy to optimize. For example, I try to optimize flowing ideas. To do this, I factor creation from production.

    @ Gennaro

    In my experience, it’s project selection. It’s tough to sell an idea both in terms of vision and execution to take it beyond the ideation stage. One without the other won’t work. I see a lot of great ideas get stuck in the ideation stage. That’s why I think mentoring is key.

    @ Patricia

    You know yourself well and that’s the key. In fact, in my new book, I’m calling out “starters” and “finishers.” Some people thrive on starting things, while others like the routine and dilligence of finishing. The secret is to pair up. When I build my teams, I pair up starters with finishers and it’s a powerful combination. I’m more of a starter, so I try to balance with finishers. For certain things, I don’t mind being a finisher, but for the most part, I like to pave paths.

    @ Giovanna

    I agree. I like how the model scales up and down. In it’s simplest form I think of it as cherry picking the value you deliver.

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