37 critical steps to increase your innovation team’s survival rate

While some say it’s the journey that counts, others prefer to focus on the destination. Many sponsors – eager to kickstart innovation – send their teams on this perilous journey unequipped. 

Without a clearly defined map, in addition to guides and resources, it is a proven fact that less than 10% of teams will survive even half of the journey. This survival figure can easily be increased to up to 60% with a carefully curated journey, that follows the 37 critical steps which form the Innovation Journey Map.

At the Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship (AfCE), we believe that the Innovation Journey Map covers the most crucial steps for almost any type of innovation project – irrespective of the industry or business model. By fulfilling each criterion of the journey, innovation teams will validate and de-risk their venture, thus improving overall success rates.


The Innovation Journey Map


This mapping tool enables you to evaluate 37 critical steps, broken down into 8 different stage gates, which are categorised into four key phases of innovation: Ideation, Discovery, Incubation and Launch.

    • The first phase – Ideation – focuses on how to prepare your team to embark on the journey. We have learned that individual motivation to solve a key problem is essential to holding a team together, and that being selective about the personalities of the included team members can increase success by over 30%. Securing business unit sponsorship upfront can also ensure that your team’s idea doesn’t die an early death by committee. It is also important to point out that you don’t have to strictly adhere to this journey the entire time – it can easily take as little as three to six months to establish your program.
    • The Discovery phase – the second set of steps – takes approximately four months and will navigate you through two stage gates. It ensures that you are running lean experiments which validates that your problem is in fact worth solving, and that you are subsequently providing the correct solution. Successful teams continuously test between 12 and 24 assumptions around their business model, prioritising market segments, channels and testing financials using a range of prototypes. Some teams may need to change paths along the way, but most will generate enough evidence around desirability, feasibility and viability to convince sponsors to continue funding their journey into Incubation.
    • The third set of steps – Incubation – incorporates the most stage gates and lasts 6 months. It is a big and serious push into building and testing the solution with real customers. We have learned that teams perform better if at least two founding members from the previous steps remain in the team, rather than being replaced by “business unit specialists” – a common pitfall at this stage of the journey. The team must also be supported by agile product development resources in order to move away from pretotyping and onto prototyping and rapid testing of solution features using 10 day sprint cycles.
    • The fourth set of steps is a foray into the Launch phase, for a duration of six months. At this stage of the journey, the team is essentially reapplying the methods from the previous four stage gates to apply their feature-enhanced solution to different customer segments across new markets, which increases their revenue or impact. The team may accept a magnitude of new members from the business and gradually hand over the project, after which the original team will disband and potentially begin a new journey.

Using the The Innovation Journey Map


The Innovation Journey Map can be used to plan your team’s upcoming innovation journey and score how ready you are, or to carry out a retrospective about your team’s last innovation journey and score how well you think you performed at each step, and devise improvements as a result.

We want to help innovation leaders plan their next journey, carry out a team retrospective or highlight the need of innovation support systems to stakeholders. For a quick digital individual assessment you can use our Typeform and collect your report, or use the A1 poster format for hosting a physical session with your team.

Each step will force you to reflect on the actions and behaviours performed rather than what you deem important. It is your moment of truth to track your innovation progress. Simply, use the 0-3 scale to score how satisfied you are with your teams past actions (or rather how confident you are if you are currently planning your next innovation journey).

Some of the steps may need to be applied slightly differently than suggested, depending on the nature of the project being assessed. This is also where you can formulate your own steps that you think are relevant. The more satisfied or confident you are with each step, the more validated and de-risked your venture will become.

As you assess yourself via the Typeform, we will highlight the key resources that will help you to plan a better innovation journey.



While 84% of executives recognise that innovation is fundamental to their growth strategy, and more than half of Fortune 500 companies have some kind of accelerator or incubator, 90% of corporate innovation initiatives are destined to fail. Whether the end or the journey is your destination, this is one journey where your organisation needs to improve their navigation. Millions have already invested in attempting various innovation journeys; however they are often uncoordinated across the organisation, and with a high failure rate. If you take the time to map your journey in advance and consider the individual steps along the path, there is huge potential to increase the success rate of teams making it further.

AfCE is proven to reduce the failure rate of innovation programs by two thirds, and its mentors have created more than $35 billion worth of innovation projects worldwide. From providing educational content and mentoring to prototype funds and team selection tools, AfCE can support innovation teams for just one step or for every step of the way.

Start mapping your innovation journey today!