The Fresh Innovation Engine: Tools, People, and Processes


Fresh’s innovation engine methodology focuses on three core areas:

  1. Tools and Systems
  2. People and Culture
  3. Process and Implementation

Our framework is organized in sequential order, and each section builds upon the other to strengthen innovation capabilities. While all three themes are necessary to have an effective innovation engine, we’ve found that it is easier to start by first building out the tools and systems that will enable the sharing and organization of ideas.

Create an organizational infrastructure

The first step to a successful innovation practice within a company is to establish an organizational infrastructure. To tackle problems, make real change, and grow, you must organize the required people, problems, and resources. Establishing a system of organization creates a necessary order and structure to the innovation process, providing a systematic way to categorize, search, and recall ideas separately.

When it comes to developing a system for gathering ideas, one should consider multiple key aspects. The first stems from combining individual ideation with group collaboration. A proper idea-collection infrastructure should enable individuals to share their ideas without being influenced by their peers.

The second key feature for a modern-day idea organization system is rich media support. Even in traditional ideation, expressing ideas and concepts with visuals has been proven to be supportive and beneficial. Being able to share ideas visually can be more impactful and communicative than those shared through words alone. Finally, with the huge influx of ideas, an organization must have an effective way to index, sort, and locate information.

Evaluate ideas

One pitfall of many organization’s innovation practices is their inability to consistently measure innovation activity to assess the return on investment of potential ideas by establishing rock-solid key performance indicators. Without a suite of key metrics or measurement systems, it will be impossible to understand how an idea delivered on its potential once it was implemented.

Implement measurement systems, and recognize their limitations

For an idea to be successful, it needs a proper allocation of resources. And for the proper amount of resources to be allocated, there need to be clear quantitative metrics for the value the idea could create. Game-changing solutions are shelved early when leaders have no way to understand and communicate their values.

Utilize common innovation metrics

According to Ronald Jonash, Board Chairman of the Global Innovation Management Institute, “the most important thing is to keep the measures simple and focused on what is important to measure—not what is easy to measure—and to link these measures and metrics with reward and recognition systems.” He suggests the following three types of measures be evaluated across an innovation portfolio:

Leading Innovation Measures

  • “Richness and robustness of growth and innovation platforms and clusters of ideas or opportunities selected and developed”
  • “Strength of strategic and leadership commitment to growth through innovation as expressed in strategic initiatives, targets, and leadership metrics”

In-Process Innovation Measures

  • “The risk-adjusted net present value of the innovation pipeline and the return on investment in that pipeline”
  • “Innovation capacity and capability building (including partnerships and networks) relative to targets and competition”

Lagging Innovation Measures

  • “Amount of earnings or revenue growth achieved through innovation relative to targets and industry competitors and overall competitive position”
  • “Success of individual innovation projects (from concept to customer) and overall platform or new business development programs”

Similarly, many companies invest vast amounts of resources into many initiatives without understanding whether the ideas can provide significant value.

When it comes to developing a successful innovation pipeline, one of the most important aspects is developing a clear and strategic measurement system so the right ideas can get the proper allocation of funds and time.

An infrastructure for ideas allows people to share, collaborate, and evaluate ideas, ensuring effectiveness and engagement around innovation activities. Integrating mechanisms that both encourage proper ideation while keeping the whole organization informed builds a foundation for lasting and impactful innovation. By starting with the tools and process, organizations can help employees to quickly and easily plug into the organization’s innovation culture.


Ryan Ottinger

Innovation Consultant

Ryan is an Innovation Consultant with an interdisciplinary career background. Graduating from Stanford University with a degree in Symbolic Systems, his coursework included computer science, UX design, and research and statistics.

Before joining Fresh, Ryan worked as a full-stack developer. While at Microsoft, he contributed to the Microsoft Whiteboard product.

Ryan loves talking to people about new technologies, philosophical debates, and gaming. He’s a PC enthusiast and also enjoys discussing hardware, software, or design.