Managed Innovation projects are becoming crucial to contemporary businesses, and Gary shares his thoughts on what businesses need to consider before embarking on what can be very time and economically consuming projects. When done well, they can lead to vast improvements in an array of different ways.
If you look up ‘innovation quotes’ (I’ll give you a few seconds to do this yourself, try it now!) you’ll invariably find a lot of very smart people telling you with no uncertainty that failure is a part of innovation; it’s in the DNA of all inventors and innovators to fail. However, the thing that all the clever quotes leave out is that at some point you actually have to stop failing and start…innovating. In this series of blogs I’m going to explore some of the key reasons why companies fail to get their innovation engines started, and discuss what we can do to jump start those engines for the road ahead.
Find a solution for your problem
This may sound obvious, but it’s one of the most common reasons why we see companies invest millions of pounds in innovation garages, or skunk work projects, only for them to fail miserably. The fear of missing out, the fear of falling behind - ‘everyone else is using big data/blockchain/AI/RPA, why aren’t we?’ – sound familiar? Don’t invest in technology for technology’s sake; and furthermore don’t invest in technology and then try and find a problem it solves - always start with a real business challenge, and then find a solution to that problem.
Don’t try and boil the ocean
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make, especially in the product space, is trying to over-complicate simple solutions. When you’ve found the problem that you want to solve, make sure that’s all you set out to solve. Things tend to go wrong when your simple solution to solve a simple business problem quickly balloons into a huge project that is going to also solve world hunger and lay new tarmac on every road in North America, all included in the initial MVP. This is slightly tongue in cheek I know, but many people lose sight of what that M in MVP really means. Most companies have very limited budgets, time, and resources for innovation, so ensuring you stay as lean as possible to deliver value as quickly as possible is key. I like to think that innovation success is driven by momentum: ask for a little, deliver what you promised, fix a small problem, build confidence, and repeat.
Know which way the wind is blowing
I’ve seen some brilliant solutions come crashing to a halt because the people building the solution were working tactically, and hadn’t realised that the company (and the market around them) had started sailing in a different direction. It’s all well and good identifying a problem and coming up with a world beating solution, but make sure those SME’s you need are going to be available when you need them. Make sure that that the radical new finance system you’re building is going to be compliant with the new legislation landing in 3 months’ time. Address the tactical issue, but make sure you have your homework done and your strategic alignment in place before you set sail.
In the next blog I’ll cover learning fast, and some more tips on ensuring innovation success. Until then, I’ll leave you with my best innovation quote, with not an F word in sight.
‘If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.’ - Antoine de Saint.
If you’d like to discuss any innovation projects you are currently working on, or are planning to begin, please feel free to get in touch with me.