Three processes to support innovation

Innovation auditing, knowledge management and networking management are some of the key components of the innovation process. 

Innovation auditing

It is important that the innovation process itself can be measured over time. No entrepreneur wants to wait until next spring to find out the previous year’s results—that goes without saying! The same applies to the auditing of innovation: entrepreneurs and employees need to be kept up to date, as quickly as possible, about progress, intermediate stages, tests, customer surveys, costs, exceptions made to the time budget, etc. That is the price of success.

An innovation audit is therefore not simply an auditing exercise but also acts as an early warning system. And only simple and accessible auditing tools help to complete this task. The main question is whether the current status of the innovation process is in line with the innovation strategy in place.

Patents, customer feedback, tests and laboratory reports, prototype functionalities, etc. are also measuring tools that save a company time and money. It is important to stay in regular contact with other departments (marketing, operations, etc.), as well as with customers and commercial partners. The reactions and suggestions of project participants should also be taken into consideration. 

Knowledge management

For your company to be one step ahead, it needs to have the best possible knowledge of customers, suppliers, products, etc. and also be in the right place at the right time. How? By using a discipline called “knowledge management”. This discipline also helps to establish the validity and means of access to confidential documents and information, although no barrier of this kind should, in principle, exist within the company.

The checklist below is a valuable aid for observing the main areas relating to knowledge management (checklist available for downloading opposite): 

Checklist: Knowledge management within a company

Our employees’ know-how in terms of projects, processes, products and services, along with knowledge of customers and suppliers, is accessible to everyone and is being constantly developed.

The company has an appropriate knowledge management tool.

Information is available on the intranet and is accessible to everyone (at any time and at any site).

Methods for searching for and inputting information are efficient and easy to use.

Knowledge is memorized directly in the process (after a customer meeting, for example, data is inputted by the customer adviser and not the secretary).

Outgoing employees will continue to pass on their knowledge in the usual way to remaining employees.

A “supervisor” will be responsible for checking that knowledge is transferred as promptly and accurately as possible.

Ongoing training and development are an obligation.

Employees are motivated and transfer their know-how to their colleagues.

Well-informed staff at all levels constitutes the key to success for any company.

Networking management

Networking management means “active assistance for several interest groups”. To successfully complete this task, the promotion of innovation also needs to be supported by allocating responsibility for auditing, for example, to one interest group and responsibility for testing innovations to another group. Small companies are the ones who are not aware enough of the reach of a viable network, usually due to lack of time.

The checklist below is an aid for analyzing your networks so that they may be used in a more targeted way (checklist available for downloading opposite). 

Checklist: Networking management – collaboration with network partners

Network Collaboration Is change necessary?
Groups free regular intense  
Internal networks Workshops        
Groups working on innovation projects        
Ad hoc groups        
Entrepreneurs and close employees        
External networks Customer groups        
ERFA groups        
Chamber of Commerce and Industry        
Suppliers, supply chains        
Authorities (Federal government, cantons, communes)        
Specialist colleges        
Research institutes under private law        

Source: "Innovationen im Kleinunternehmen", Swiss Research Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, University of St. Gallen.

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Checklist: Network management - cooperation with network partners (DOC, 48 kB, 15.08.2018)Schweizerisches Institut für Klein- und Mittelunternehmen an der Universität St.Gallen (KMU-HSG)

Checklist: Knowledge management within the firm (DOC, 39 kB, 15.08.2018)Schweizerisches Institut für Klein- und Mittelunternehmen an der Universität St.Gallen (KMU-HSG)

Last modification 28.08.2018

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