Whilst doing a webinar on how to design a powerful innovation portfolio, I asked those present which of the following do they have in their organisation:

  • innovation pipeline
  • innovation funnel
  • innovation life cycle
  • innovation portfolio
  • none of the above

Although it was a multiple choice question, 40% answered with none of the above, and 60% with innovation pipeline. Of course, it was a small sample size, with participants from Europe, but still offers some indication on adoption of above concepts.

Large companies have the most to gain from adopting both innovation funnel—to master innovation on a tactical level—and innovation portfolio—to master innovation on a strategic level.

Pipeline as a metaphor works well for sales. Nobody wants a leaky pipeline, i.e. you want minimal loss from qualifying leads to closing deals.

When it comes to innovation, attrition is both expected and desired due to its inherent uncertainty. The only way to find out what you don't know is through thoughtful action and experimentation.

That includes learning that some innovations and inventions are not worth pursuing. And that's why the funnel is a better metaphor for innovation.

To dig deeper into each of the above, I recommend:

How to design a powerful innovation portfolio
A practical framework you can immediately use to design your innovation portfolio.
Making sense of innovation pipelines, funnels, and portfolios - Innovation Accounting Book
Learn why confusing them could gridlock your innovation—and what you can do about it.