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Idea Implementation and Organizing for Innovation

Paper Plane Flying Upward
Radboud University Nijmegen
September 29, 2022
10:30 to 12:15
Radboud University Nijmegen

The third and final phase of the innovation process is the idea implementation phase. After an idea has been selected, a project team needs to convert it into a marketable product, service, or business model. In this lecture, we discussed how organizations can effectively manage implementation projects.

Idea Implementation

Teams can use several techniques to manage the implementation of new ideas: sequential, parallel, and iterative models.

Sequential Models

A sequential model—such as the stage-gate or waterfall model—consist of non-overlapping steps. The output of the first step serves as the input for the next.

Sequential models are well-structured and have clear deliverables for every step. They also reflect a transparent decision-making process, making it easy to make decisions about the project. However, sequential models are inflexible and there is little room for spontaneous action. They can also lead to high levels of bureaucracy, since the outcome of each step has to be evaluated and approved.

Parallel Models

A parallel model consists of partially overlapping steps. The input of the first step still serves as the input for the next, but employees working on the second step do not have to wait until the first step has been completed.

Parallel models are faster than sequential models because the different steps do not have to wait for each other. Employees working on a certain step get early feedback from their colleagues working on the next step. However, the parallel model requires a lot of communication and can cause significant design changes and reworking.

Iterative Models

An iterative model is characterized by cycles in which the project team quickly repeats the same sequences of steps. The output of the first step serves as the input for the next step, but the steps are completed quickly such that an optimal outcome can be reached.

Iterative models allow project teams to quickly reduce uncertainty at the beginning of the process. However, they are highly unstructured and untransparant, making it difficult for senior management to see what’s going on.

Agile software development is an example of an iterative approach to idea implementation.

Organizing for Innovation

While the project management techniques can be used to structure idea implementation projects, the organization also needs to motivate their employees to contribute to the innovation process. Start-ups are entrepreneurial by nature, but large or old organizations often lose their entrepreneurial spirit.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Safi Bahcall argues that managers can avoid a shift to incremental innovation by deliberately using several structural levers that motivate employees to invest time in their innovation projects. These levers include financial compensation, salary growth, and managerial span of control.

We also discussed the alignment between the creative contributions of leaders and followers. Using the Academy of Management Annals article written by Charalampos Mainemelis, Ronit Kark, and Olga Epitropaki, we identified three different types of creative leadership: directing, integrating, and facilitating.

ING Case

In the second half of the lecture, we examined how the bank ING changed their approach to idea implementation. After reading the case “Building an agile organisation at ING Bank Netherlands: from Tango to RIO”, students had to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the agile approach to project management.


  • Bahcall, S. (2019). The innovation equation. Harvard Business Review, March-April, 74–81.
  • Mainemelis, C., Kark, R., & Epitropaki, O. (2015). Creative leadership: A multi-context conceptualization. Academy of Management Annals, 9(1), 393–482.

The Course

This lecture is part of the course Innnovation & Entrepreneurship in Context at the Radboud University Nijmegen. The course is compulsory for students of the Master of Science (MSc) specialization in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The course has three lecturers: Caroline Essers, Yvonne van Rossenberg, and me. I gave five lectures on innovation management:

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