Taking the deep dive
However, it often proves difficult to part with that money. For a number of reasons, many of them discussed here previously, it can be very hard to get started and take that first step. What's interesting to me is that so many firms want to "get it right" the first time. We've placed such an emphasis on perfection that we've forgotten how to fail. Once all the planning and contingencies are worked out and a new, "safe" innovation initiative is begun, we could have tried and failed several times, learning along the way. Sometime we literally need to jump in and test the water.
Right now a lot of firms are doing what I call snorkeling. They've entered the water and are making some progress, swimming right near the surface. Anyone who has snorkeled can tell you that the view is pretty good, and reasonably safe, since many people don't leave the surface. But for real innovation success, just like real diving success, you need to go deeper. Taking a deeper dive, making a more significant commitment, is what is required to get the real benefits. Moving from the snorkeling at the surface to the scuba gear gets you closer to the real action below the surface. Yes, it requires more risk taking and more experience, and some training, but the investment is worth it.
I'll use this snorkel versus scuba analogy for innovation commitment because I think it's a valid one. Cruising along on the surface doesn't require a big commitment, but you'll never recognize the real benefits and rewards until you make the decision to take the deeper dive and swim right down to the point of the opportunity. Scuba diving requires a lot more training and experience than snorkeling, but the difference is profound. Also, most scuba divers started out as snorkelers, and graduated to scuba because they realized they wanted to get closer to the things below the surface, and stay there for longer periods of time. Likewise, most firms can't dive in immediately, and need some quick wins to demonstrate the innovation capability. That's OK, but once that's been proven to gain real innovation return the firm needs to dive deeper.