Innovation Funnel (IF)

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Idea Funnel, Innovation Pipeline


Understanding the Innovation Funnel

The Innovation Funnel is a model used by businesses to manage and streamline the process of innovation. It is a visual representation of the journey an idea takes from its initial conception through to implementation. The funnel metaphor is used because many ideas are generated at the beginning of the process (the wide end of the funnel), but as these ideas are evaluated, refined, and developed, only a few make it to the end (the narrow end of the funnel).

The Stages of the Innovation Funnel

The Innovation Funnel typically consists of several stages:

  • Idea Generation: This is the broadest stage of the funnel, where a large number of ideas are brainstormed and collected.
  • Screening: At this stage, ideas are evaluated based on their feasibility and alignment with the company’s goals. Non-viable ideas are discarded.
  • Concept Development: The selected ideas are developed into workable concepts. This involves detailed planning and design.
  • Testing: The concepts are tested for viability. This could involve market research, prototype testing, or financial analysis.
  • Implementation: The final stage where the concept is turned into a product, service, or process and launched into the market.

The Importance of the Innovation Funnel

The Innovation Funnel plays a critical role in the innovation process. It helps businesses manage their resources efficiently, ensuring that only the most promising ideas are pursued. It also provides a structured approach to innovation, helping to mitigate risks and increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.

Usage Examples

Example 1: A technology company uses the Innovation Funnel to manage its product development process. It begins with a brainstorming session where hundreds of ideas are generated. These ideas are then screened for feasibility and alignment with the company’s strategic goals. The most promising ideas are developed into concepts and tested through market research and prototype testing. Finally, the best concepts are implemented and launched as new products.

Example 2: A healthcare organization applies the Innovation Funnel to improve its patient care processes. It collects ideas from staff, patients, and other stakeholders, screens these ideas based on their potential impact on patient care, develops the best ideas into detailed plans, tests these plans, and implements the most effective solutions.

Historical Context

The concept of the Innovation Funnel has been around for several decades, originating from the product development and management fields. Over time, it has been adapted and refined to suit different industries and types of innovation.


  • Every idea will make it through the funnel: Not all ideas will make it to the end of the funnel. The purpose of the funnel is to filter out less viable ideas and focus on the most promising ones.
  • The Innovation Funnel is a linear process: While the funnel is often depicted as a linear process, in reality, it can be iterative with ideas moving back and forth between stages.


  • Innovation Funnel vs. Innovation Pipeline: While both terms are used to describe the process of filtering ideas, the Innovation Funnel emphasizes the narrowing down of ideas, while the Innovation Pipeline suggests a continuous flow of ideas.

Related Concepts

  • Idea Management
  • Product Development
  • Business Strategy
  • Resource Management
  • Risk Mitigation
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