Enable a seamless innovation process

Sometimes I find that we focus too much on averages and not enough on the margins.

Program officer


An important challenges to overcome with innovation-oriented investments is to ensure that processes do not become fragmented by a lack of continuity or joined-up thinking.

For a more seamless innovation process, you may want to bring in a design partner who has the explicit role of ensuring the continuity of a core group of people and ideas throughout the entire process - from problem framing to concept development to implementation - even if specific specialists come and go.

Common outputs or deliverables

Tips and tricks

  • If you want the project to move effectively and efficiently into implementation, consider having that overlapping linkage with an implementation partner from the beginning. This will ensure that the implementation partner can be an active participant in the process and is able to fully own the proposed solution going forward.
  • Consider the need for different levels of emphasis for different partners at different times of the innovation process. For example, at the beginning of the project the implementation partner might be watching and learning more, while the design partner is in the lead. During implementation, the focus shifts as you are likely to rely more on the implementation partner in the lead.
  • You can benefit from having the design partner embedded alongside the implementation partner during implementation. Having the people involved in the proximate design of something, seeing and learning from how people are using it, means they can turn that learning into something tangible. To fully take advantage of adaptive learning you will need someone invested in the project who can truly take that learning and adapt it -- designers are well suited to this activity.


  • Be wary of excluding the design partner or implementation partner from any of the stages in the process, as this disconnect or distance during key decision moments increases the risk of fragmentation and inconsistency in handovers.
  • While there are many foundation skills that all designers share - thinking visually, simplifying complex problems, making ideas tangible - designers also have different areas of expertise - visual or graphic design, interaction design, product design, strategic design etc. Consider having a discussion with your design partner about which types of design expertise they feel are critical to bring to the challenges represented in your investment.

Questions for potential partners

  • How will you ensure the continuity of a core group throughout the innovation process, even if specific specialists come and go?
  • How do you help facilitate the process of different teams/organizations moving in and out of leading and supporting roles?
  • Given that an implementing partner is key to ensuring that a new product or service is implemented in a sustainable manner, what is your process for working with implementing partners and bringing them in as key collaborators?
  • How do you intend on documenting the rationale for decisions made along the way in the innovation process, and for ensuring continuing collaboration and agreement?
  • Ask your design partner if they can share with you how they will approach the different timings, roles and responsibilities of different types of contributors who will be involved?

Resources and links