Your four point action plan to succeed at innovation.
If your metric of ‘ideation’ success is to fill a wall with coloured squares, you will probably never miss your target at an innovation workshop. Sticky notes are the friend of the unskilled moderator.
Of course, sticky notes are a great thing, functionally. The problem is, after the meeting, most of them get thrown away, and the few that are kept as The Next Big Ideas are also thrown away, eventually. Here’s why:
1 What goes on tour stays on tour
In ideation terms, this translates to ‘what’s said in the room doesn’t work in the real world.’
Take your top three ideas from your last innovation session to the CSuite and they will probably bomb. Without context to support them, most often the argument is ‘so, where does this sit in the budget?’
Easy not to hug. Easy to discount. Easy to kill.
2 Show me the data, then show me the money
There is no data. This is future opportunity. The only data available is for what happened in the past and the problem with that is, it’s in the past.
The internal innovation process MUST be led by new information, new insight, new attitudes and a willingness to explore your company’s survival. There are many businesses here today who won’t be around for ever (or for long, in some cases) and the reason is that their markets are changing, and they aren’t.
Innovation is about survival as much as growth, but current budgets are measured in profitability. The mis-match is clear to see.
3 Not all ideas are equal
You only need to look under the right stone to find the winning idea. On that wall of sticky notes, there probably is one idea that will underpin your business into the next era. The trick is to recognise it.
Designing a process that specifies how concepts should be assessed must happen before you ideate. The process has to be informed by somebody determining what good looks like.
If you haven’t got these ducks lined up, leave the stickies in the drawer.
4 Perfection isn’t the objective. Good enough is
I’m not saying, launch crap. I’m saying, launch fast. Iterate fast. Develop fast. And importantly, start fast.
Pick the idea that meets your need and get on with it. Consumers will tell you if your Minimal Viable Product (MVP) works or not. The only thing they need is access to it.
What you launch is inevitably not what you will end up selling in time. Look at every design icon out there for examples. The VW Golf is a good one. The Wright Brothers’ plane is another. Great things do evolve, but they start quickly and develop as uses and attitudes are reflected in design.
5 Close the process off
Innovation is talked about as being one of those nebulous, unspecific functions that might deliver great things but most often doesn’t.
The money pumped into ‘innovation’ is probably matched by the frustration everybody else in the company feels towards its lack of impact. Why? Because the timeline is vague. Give a target a date to hit and the pressure is on.
Allow innovation to wander off and you’ve lost already. An innovation process needs to be more than S.M.A.R.T.
An innovation process should have:
- A start date – on this date, that thing will happen.
- A finish date – by this date, we will have done that thing.
- Metrics – this is how we will decide what to do, this is how we will decide which candidate wins, and this is how we will measure success.
- A team – collaboration is the most powerful tool you have and it won’t cost you any more than you’re paying already.
Think of it like this: put ten of your people in a room for half a day and you’ve just amassed five days’ work in four hours. See if your CFO can argue with that.
Finally, to avoid any doubt about your intention to ‘innovate’, announce when this work starts, describe how it will be done and what it will achieve – in advance. Give people notice. Get them clamouring to be involved. Give them time to train for the event – they will.
When you start them off, watch them fly. Your innovation process can be the most pivotal moment in your company’s history, if you get it right.
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You can download an infographic of this checklist here.