Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Let's assess the situation

Since it's early in the calendar year and, in most cases the fiscal year, many firms are starting new initiatives and projects. I suspect that many of them are starting innovation initiatives. If so, let me provide one small piece of advice. Stop right now.

By that I don't mean stop innovating completely, or never begin an innovation initiative. What I do think is important though is to assess "where" you are in terms of innovation readiness. Take a short, quick assessment of your organization and its willingess and capability to innovate.

By now, if you are still reading, you've probably thought to yourself, or, if you are like me, yelled at the monitor something along these lines "What? Is he crazy? Any idiot can innovate." To which I'll reply "yes, any idiot can innovate. But with what results?" The challenge isn't whether your firm or the people within CAN innovate, the question is whether or not the firm, its culture and structure, its strategic goals and its investment strategy will sponsor and support innovation. If these, and other components, aren't in place and supportive, then all your innovation team is doing is getting set up for the fall.

What are the key factors to consider when assessing your firm's receptiveness and readiness for innovation? A complete answer would take several posts. For the short answer, think about whether or not innovation is aligned to strategic goals, whether or not the culture of the organization will support innovation, and how the innovation team will interact with the existing corporate structure. If you can identify some likely challenges in a simple thought experiment, you'll encounter those challenges and more to your innovation initiative as you proceed. Identifying the likely sources of conflict and addressing those before the initiative starts will be exceptionally helpful. After all, the folks who climb Everest plan their route and stage food, water and oxygen along the way. They don't climb the mountain and then radio in for supplies as they encounter the needs.

I know we are all in a hurry. I know innovation is exciting and can change the way you work and the revenues and profits you generate. But as with many new initiatives, you get one really great chance to get it right. Make the most of the first chance by assessing your readiness and identifying the likely challenges to your initiative.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 2:27 PM

37 Comments:

Blogger Bob said...

You're so right! Too often when enthusiasm sets in, we forge ahead without thinking it through, even a little. It brings to mind a line from Red October, when the Admiral tells Jack something like, "They need a plan. Russians don't take a dump without a plan."

Without going overboard, of course, the sentiment is exactly right!

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Blogger James V Reagan said...

Could not agree more. As I coach people "ideas are not the hard part, execution is." In other words, innovative ideas are in large supply. The issue is, how to execute on them, both from a know-how perspective and from a willingness perspective.

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