Blog post

What are the main steps to build a sustainable innovation process?

Whether you have just started a new business or run a well-established one, building an innovation process from the ground up isn’t an easy task.

You may even currently be stuck in the middle of the process, wondering how you can move forward and realize the full potential of your organization.

Here are some steps to help you build a sustainable innovation process, improve agility, increase productivity, strengthen resilience, and create value.

What’s really important?

Every organization, small or large, has different needs even when it comes to building a sustainable innovation process. The context of your current operational framework makes a difference.

As understood by many leaders in the open innovation field, the most important aspects to consider when developing your process are your business strategies, intrapreneurship, and organizational culture. Traditional approaches are no longer beneficial and must be adjusted to follow the rapidly changing world of business and innovation.

Long-term business strategies must be paired with operational agility so that you are prepared for unexpected challenges. If you want your innovation process to be sustainable, you must be flexible and willing to modify key components within your strategy.

Intrapreneurs are only useful if there is a sustainable process in place. They are highly motivated to push past boundaries and can become great leaders within the company.

Company culture is created daily through leaders, employees, and even external stakeholders. If you want to change the culture of your organization, you should bring everyone together for a common goal under the guidance of a clear business strategy. Decision-making should be done as a team, and incentives can also promote change.

These feats are critical for the functionality of a sustainable innovation process. The challenge is producing products and services that not only are more sustainable than what they replace but also achieve acceptance, bring together diverse stakeholders, and essentially, transform the industrial processes they are targeting.

Sustainable Innovation Process

Before building your innovation process, your internal stakeholders must buy in first, because sustainability requires a mutually supportive group of individuals from within the company. The following list offers advice that will help you with the entirety of your innovation process and more.

7 steps to build a sustainable innovation process:

  • Align business strategy
  • Obtain executive support
  • Develop innovation management process
  • Identify roles and tasks
  • Determine metrics
  • Build on strategies, processes, and systems continuously
  • Establish a culture of innovation

Implementing a sustainable innovation process isn’t an easy task but, if done correctly, it can help you avoid the traditional processes that fall short.

Align business strategy

Your organization’s infrastructure is important to innovation initiatives and can determine the success or failure of your company. However, your strategy is not a one size fits all. Understanding your objectives will help you create a well-thought-out innovation strategy.

It takes some time to develop and even adjust a strategy, so remember to continuously:

  • Keep your objectives in mind
  • Establish an innovation charter (mission statement)
  • Purpose
  • Goals
  • Priorities
  • Roles
  • Guidelines
  • Outcomes
  • Funding
  • Boundaries
  • Define innovation context
  • Capabilities
  • Insights
  • Restraints
  • Scope
  • Indicate realistic expectations

Obtain executive support

Building a culture that supports innovation is essential, and it starts from the top: highest-level executives. They must have the skills to set up and communicate a corporate culture of sustainable innovation.

Develop innovation management process

A well-designed innovation management process will not only obtain good quality ideas but will also convert them into desired products and services. This requires adaptability, measurement, and attention to value to develop better processes, products, and systems that will offer you a competitive advantage.

This process should integrate innovative activities into your overall business strategy. The following actions can help your company put all the steps together into one process.

And when you’ve finished, do it all over again.

  • Set goals
  • Utilize collaborative solutions
  • Consider combining ideas
  • Evaluate
  • Test ideas
  • Execute ideas
  • Assess innovation lifecycle

Identify roles and tasks

A group of people working together does not always make a complete team. To form an efficient group, every individual needs to contribute to the team with his or her specific abilities. You should define these roles and tasks based on particular talents, skills, and personalities.

Determine metrics

Metrics are used to track and assess the status of your innovation process. They measure performance over time and observe your progress towards achieving key objectives.

Build on strategies, processes, and systems continuously

Every employee needs to be encouraged to carry out evolving innovation practices—even external stakeholders. Now is the time to be disruptive and pool resources with external stakeholders, who can push your business activities to the next level.

Establish a culture of innovation

The creation and continued promotion of a culture of innovation will generate transparent, comprehensive, and secure practices that encourage innovation.

The following three features are crucial for sustainability:

  • Engagement
  • Education
  • Leadership


Pay attention to the details if you want to create a culture of sustainable innovation. Strategy is the coming together of multiple actions with a clear purpose. Your goal should be long-term innovation.

It is important to address sustainability early on in the process and adapt it to your corporate context. Doing so will only benefit your organization and the people involved.

If you’re interested in staying up to date with the latest statistic in open innovation, check out our infographic.

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